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Thursday August 11, 2011 : ONLINE GAMBLING OFFERS BETTER PROTECTION TO PROBLEM PLAYERS
Internet gaming exec testifies to Aussie committee
Some of Australia's vehemently anti-online gambling politicians should be reading the testimony of Sportsbet chief exec Cormac Barry before a federal enquiry this week, in which he presented the view that the advanced technologies used by internet betting firms give more protection to potentially problem gamblers than land operations can.
Third-party verification and analytics software help minimise problem gambling, Barry claimed, enabling internet gambling firms to offer greater protection than retail outlets.
Barry was addressing a federal inquiry into interactive and online gambling and gambling advertising and the Interactive Gambling and Broadcasting Amendment (Online Transactions and Other Measures) Bill 2011.
“There are occasions where people will try and open a second or third account to try and get more money on — customers have limits on how much they can bet on each selection — so we run real-time matching software that will pick out common characteristics with similar accounts and that will flag an alert to our fraud team,” he said.
“The same would apply with people who have self-excluded — if they try to open a new account with the same email address or phone number or used a different address, the software would pick it up and the account would be suspended by the fraud team.
“The efforts that have been made by the online gambling industry are considerably more sophisticated than other areas of the industry.”
Questioned on current regulatory arrangements, which allow ninety days for customers to be verified, Barry agreed that improvements were possible, but pointed out: “You can still play, but you cannot benefit from that activity: You cannot withdraw money ... you can still lose money”. He opined that a proposal that gamblers should be required to provide full 100 point identification before being allowed to open an online betting account would be too ambitious and difficult for the gambling industry as a whole to meet.
“A barrier of that level would be very onerous and would only serve to drive customers to offshore sites that do not have that level of regulation,” he said.
“The key thing when we are looking at regulation is to strike a balance and allow the business to operate and have processes that protect the customer — whether they are minors or responsible gamblers.”
Barry said his company was supportive of the creation of a set of federal standards to ensure that online betters were assured of “high levels of protection”.
He was also not averse to the creation of a program where licensed Australian gambling operators made annual financial contributions to a national gambling problem fund to be accessed by gambling research and counselling organisations, or to a national register of problem gamblers.
The online gambling executive noted that recent research from the Queensland government showed there was no evidence that problem gambling had increased due to the advent of the internet and online gambling in Australia since 2001.
“Nor is the instance of problem gambling higher among online gamblers in comparison to those that gamble with land-based retail outlets,” he said.
Sportsbet has some 700,000 customers, with over 95 percent of these based in Australia. Around 900 have used Sportsbet’s self-exclusion service in the past financial year and 1,600 customers had voluntarily set deposit limits, Barry revealed.
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