A WANTIRNA man who racked up an $80,000 debt through online betting has prompted a law change to stop gambling providers offering lines of credit.
The move to clamp down on the loophole of betting companies acting as lenders was part of the Federal Government’s online gambling reforms that passed the Senate on Wednesday and followed more than six years of campaigning on the issue by Aston Federal MP Alan Tudge.
Human Services Minister Mr Tudge led the push to ban credit betting after hearing the story of an unemployed Wantirna man who was offered thousands of dollars of credit from Sportsbet. John Chan (not his real name) made national news in 2011 after it was reported how he lost $80,000 in one weekend gambling with Sportsbet credit. Mr Chan, who had suffered from depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder, initially refused Sportsbet’s offers of free bets before accepting the money and gambling it all on AFL, soccer and horse racing within a period of 48 hours. The enormous debt bankrupted Mr Chan and he almost lost his house when Sportsbet took him to court.
Betting agencies such as Sportsbet were able to use a legal loophole to offer credit to punters because they were licensed in the Northern Territory — the only Australian jurisdiction that did not restrict gambling companies acting as lenders. However under the new reforms all wagering providers are prohibited from offering lines of credit.
Mr Chan’s mother Barbara said that she was happy Mr Tudge and the government had acted, saying the most important thing was that it prevented other problem gamblers getting caught up in the same loophole. She said, “This is for the whole nation’s interest. I want to thank Alan not only for the sake of our situation but it will be a starting point to prevent unsafe gambling.”
Mr Tudge said learning how easily Mr Chan was able to access such a large amount of credit prompted him to act on the issue. He indicated that the reforms “would provide a safer gambling environment, while still allowing people to enjoy a punt”.