Australian regulator failed to ban people who requested exclusion

Over the past two years, the turnover of licensed sports betting companies has doubled from AU$24.6bn to AU$42.9bn.
Over the past two years, the turnover of licensed sports betting companies has doubled from AU$24.6bn to AU$42.9bn.

The Northern Territory Racing Commission has admitted failing to send names to online betting companies.

Australia.- The Northern Territory Racing Commission (NTRC) has admitted that 48 people with gambling harm-related issues were not banned from betting with several bookmakers despite requesting exclusion. The regulator says that it failed to pass their names to the operators, in some cases for up to five years after the request for exclusion as made.

The NTRC has written to several companies alerting them to the flaw in the territory’s self-exclusion register, which is supposed to allow people to ban themselves from gambling and from receiving gambling advertisements. However, people who signed the voluntary self-exclusion form before 2018 did not give the commission “the authority to provide the person’s details to newly established wagering companies”.

The news, reported by The Guardian, has sparked concerns among harm reduction advocates. Charles Livingstone, an associate professor of public health at Monash University, said the admission was “a shameful incident” that should have been addressed a long time ago. 

He added: “Even if there was a loophole in the law, that should have been recognised long ago and resolved. It’s a demonstration of just how little priority has been given to protecting the interests of consumers.”

Almost all Australian online sports betting companies are licensed in the Northern Territory for historical tax purposes. Their turnover has doubled from AU$24.6bn in 2018 as a result of the popularity of smartphone applications, official partnerships with major sporting codes, and lucrative advertising deals.

The Northern Territory government and the NTRC have not yet responded to the recent admission.

The incident has also sparked debate over the proposed national self-exclusion scheme BetStop, with the NTRC expressing concerns that the system isn’t strong enough and adding it will continue with its own system unless changes are made to the initiative.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) announced the launch of BetStop last July. The new national gambling self-exclusion register would allow people to register to be excluded from all Australian licenced online and phone wagering services.

The NTRC has acknowledged that its own Excel-based system is outdated and labour-intensive but it’s concerned that BetStop takes up to 72 hours to authenticate new customer details, potentially allowing a vulnerable person to use an alias to gamble for up to three days before their identity is confirmed.

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