25th of March 2010 Author: Johnny Karp
Minister condemns credit offer
Online gambling has attracted more unwelcome Australian media attention in a week that has already seen 888.com come under investigation for its promotional activities
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Sportsbet.com.au is targeting gamblers low on funds by offering them instant credit of A$200 to induce them to spend more, amid renewed pressure to nationalise gambling laws.
According to the SMH report, the betting company tracks a gambler's average bet and, when the funds in the player account fall below the value of the usual punt, offers the account holder three options, including $200 in credit.
If they have not recovered the $200 within a week, users are expected to pay back the balance.
The state Minister for Gaming and Racing, Kevin Greene, condemned the practice, renewing his calls for a national approach to gaming regulation.
'A national approach would have to be agreed to by all the states, and it is understood the Northern Territory and Tasmania do not support the move. SportsBet is licensed in the NT where credit betting is allowed,' the SMH reports.
Alex Blaszczynski, director of the gambling clinic at Sydney University, told the newspaper that offering credits was ''unconscionable'' and he believed gaming companies should have a duty of care.
''From a moral point of view, if they're going to potentially expose problem gamblers to excessive financial problems, then I think the onus is on them to ensure that they're providing effective monitoring,'' Professor Blaszczynski said.
A SportsBet spokesman, Haydn Lane, said the credit facility had been offered since 2007.
''This option is attractive to members who wish to replenish their account balance with minimum delay and without transaction charges.''
Clients are also offered the chance to top up their account with their own funds, or to never have the message appear again.
''This service is no less ethical than other credit facilities offered by businesses, for example credit cards, however our facility is fee- and interest-free,'' Lane said.
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