Press Conference at Parliament House, Canberra


SUBJECTS: BetStop, pre-verification for online gambling sites.

MICHELLE ROWLAND, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Good morning, protecting Australians from harm is a key priority of the Albanese Government. That is why today we are pleased to announce the start date for the National Self Exclusion Register for online gaming. This is known as BetStop, and it will commence on 21 August this year. What BetStop means is that with a single touch an individual will be able to self-exclude themselves from all forms of online wagering. That's 150 licensed wagering providers in Australia. They will not be able to open an account, place a bet, and it will be prohibited to market to them directly, including by email or by text. This is the final component being implemented under the National Consumer Protection Framework. What it means is that Australians will have another tool in order to take control of people who might be experiencing gambling harm. It means that people will be able to do this for free. It also means that the Australian Communications and Media Authority will have the powers to ensure enforcement, including infringement notices, warnings, and potentially civil penalties, which can be over $230,000 per day in some cases. So what we are establishing here is another bow ensuring that we have taken the necessary steps for harm minimisation when it comes to vulnerable Australians who might be at risk of gambling harm. In conjunction with this, we also have an important announcement today that complements this BetStop announcement, and that is in terms of pre verification.
AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: Thank you. Our Government has taken online wagering and harm minimisation incredibly seriously, and since coming to Government, we've been working hard to ensure that we get the last measures completed of the National Consumer Framework, and that includes, of course, our new taglines and our call to action and promoting where people can get help. It's been our activity statement, it's been our compulsory training for staff that work in the area, and of course BetStop, that Minister Rowland has just announced   is the last measure to implement. For BetStop to be the most effective we need to make sure that when someone signs up to online gambling that their identity is actually verified before they can place a bet. At the moment a person can sign up and there's 72 hours before their identity is verified, where they can place bets and actually continue to punt. This isn't good enough, and it means that if you register with BetStop there is 72 hours, if you go online, that you can actually start gambling under some other identity. Our step that we're taking around pre verification is ensuring that if someone opens an online account for wagering, that they must be identified, and that their identity is verified before they can place a bet. This is incredibly important to ensure that BetStop is effective, but it's also important to ensure that they're a real person online, and it's important to ensure that they're not under the age of 18. This is a very important measure. It was two weeks, it was brought down to 72 hours, but now we're saying that people must be verified before they can place a bet. This is another element that we're adding to our protections for online wagering, and I look forward to continuing to work with my state and territory colleagues. This is one of the areas that they did raise with me in the first meeting I had earlier this year since 2017, and I look forward to continuing to work with them about how we can minimise harm for those using online wagering.
JOURNALIST: Minister Rowland, do you support in principle the Social Affairs Committee's recommendations for a ban on inducements and a ban on trailing divisions?
MICHELLE ROWLAND: We received this report less than two weeks ago, and it's an important piece of work done by this committee, and we thank the Chair in particular, Peta Murphy, for this very important piece of work. As the Government has always said, we will use this report as the evidence base for comprehensive reform in this area. We're therefore consulting with a wide range of stakeholders and ensuring that we do formulate a comprehensive response. This will be done expeditiously. I am on the record as saying that the status quo is unsustainable. But we will have a comprehensive response in due course and we'll do that expeditiously, including in relation to all recommendations.
AMANDA RISHWORTH: And I just add that 27 of the 31 recommendations actually impact the states and territories. I am looking forward to meeting with my state and territory counterparts to work through those recommendations, and I have to say, there was a lot of goodwill in the room when I met with my state and territory colleagues about wanting to further this. But this is an area that does have high regulatory requirements, and I know that there is a desire to do better with the state and territory colleagues. And I will continue to work with them at our next meeting as we work through these recommendations.
JOURNALIST: But the consultation is about implementation, isn't it? Whereas this question is about what you want to achieve. Do you want to achieve a ban on inducements; do you want to achieve a ban on trailing divisions?
MICHELLE ROWLAND: Let me be very clear about what this Government wants to achieve. We want to fulfil the principle of harm minimisation, and as Minister Rishworth has said, part of this includes the cooperation of the states and territories in a wide variety of areas. There is a wide variety of stakeholders who are also impacted by these decisions. As a responsible Cabinet Government, we will be considering all of these recommendations exactly as we have committed, and we'll be making further announcements in due course.
JOURNALIST: In terms of the consultation process, have you started speaking to television stakeholders or sports codes around the potential advertising there?
MICHELLE ROWLAND: We have been speaking to a wide variety of stakeholders. They include harm reduction advocates, people right across sector, as has Minister Rishworth in those areas which impact on her. I will not reveal the contents of those discussions, suffice to say that the industry is well aware of the comments that I have made on the record that the status quo is unsustainable. But we will work through all of these stakeholder consultations ensuring that at all times we adhere to the utmost, the principle of harm minimisation. That is what this Government has been very clear on, and we'll continue to pursue that.
JOURNALIST: Do you have any indication of the timeline, [indistinct] of advertising that?
MICHELLE ROWLAND: We will take our time in terms of having a comprehensive response to all of these issues, including in relation to recommendations that go to advertising. But again, I want to be very clear that this is not going to be a government that sits on important reports that go to harm minimisation for four years, unlike the previous government, who sat on a report into banning credit cards for online wagering and did nothing, that sat on a report into reform of the classification system where simulated gambling had been found in children's games and did nothing. We are acting on these areas. We are fulfilling the last of the National Consumer Protection Framework which in its form was established in 2018, and yes, we were critical when we were in opposition of the time that has taken. But now it is time to look forward.

The announcement today as BetStop and the associated measures that Minister Rishworth has announced goes precisely to that issue, and that principle, which I have articulated, and that is harm minimisation.
JOURNALIST: Just on BetStop, have you set up any sign-up targets for that, just considering the harm minimisation that we're talking about here?
MICHELLE ROWLAND: I think we should be clear; this is not necessarily about setting targets. This is about providing the ability for someone who is being impacted by gambling harm to have a one touch ability to self exclude. It also means that the industry will be contributing to the operation and maintenance of this system through a levy. So what we would like to articulate to the Australian people is that help is available. We are providing this through the enhanced tag lines that Minister Rishworth outlined, and to enhanced training for wagering staff. All of these measures together provide a comprehensive response to this issue. We also want people to be aware that the ACMA will be conducting a public education campaign and the wagering providers will be required to publicise the availability of BetStop. While no specific target has been set, the important point here is that this is widely known, that help is available, that it is easy to use, and that people can self exclude for three months, or a lifetime, if they so choose. It is giving people better control and the tools in order to control their behaviours if they are susceptible to harm in this area.
JOURNALIST:  How long will the pre verification process be expected to take, and would that potentially mean that if you wanted to place say a bet on the Melbourne Cup, for example, you have to organise a sign up to a betting site hours or potentially days in advance?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, we expect that the pre verification will be in place by the end of September. In terms of the timeframe, that will be up to individual companies. Many individual companies already do pre verification, and it is a pretty swift policy, with a swift outcome, but that will vary between individual companies, but we expect that pre verification will be in place at the end of September, so the timeframe in which a company will pre verify people by is really a matter for them. Many use third party providers in order to deliver this, and so that's what many will continue to do.
[Indistinct] Australians want limits on gambling ads, not a ban. Is that watered down recommendation consistent with the principle of harm minimisation?
MICHELLE ROWLAND: We will continue to engage with all stakeholders, and as I said, we are considering this comprehensively in a proper process. We've only received this report within the last two weeks, and we'll have more to say on that in the near future