With over a dozen locations throughout Victoria, Gambler’s Help Southern (GHS) is the largest service center for problem gamblers in all of Australia. According to a number of its clients, online betting promotions, often referred to as inducements, are “the main reason” for their inability to stop themselves from wagering beyond their means.
Alvin Efklides, Operations Manager for the counseling service, condemned the tactics of internet bookmakers. “Inducements directly aimed to increase and keep clients gambling without knowing the individual gambler’s circumstances and with absolute disregard to their health and wellbeing, both emotionally and financially,” said Efklides, “is borderline criminal.”
He went on to describe inducements, in his opinion, as being “the most persuasive and intoxicating of all strategies deployed by any form of gambling in the world.”
VRGF Calls for ‘Tighter Regulation’ on Inducements
Advocates of anti-gambling said that inducements may include anything from free bets, deposit bonuses and credit extensions, to free meals, comped hotel stays, vacation packages and VIP tickets to major sporting events. Taking hold of such opportunities seems to be too much for many problem gamblers to ignore.
Statistics from the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation (VRGF) show that the number of individuals who’ve sought help for addiction to online gambling has doubled since 2011. The organization’s CEO, Serge Sardo, doesn’t believe the situation will get any better until the government enforces “tighter regulation” on inducements.
“We certainly are concerned about inducements,” he said. “Anecdotally we think it is an issue, particularly for those who have difficulty controlling their gambling.”
Bookmakers Inducing Losers, Banning Winners?
According to Melbourne media giant Herald Sun, industry insiders shed some disturbing light on the way inducements are used to keep losing gamblers placing more wagers, while those who win frequently are being systematically banned from placing more bets.
The Australian Wagering Council isn’t convinced, and although the organization does recognize the growing “community concern” over online betting promotions, it said there was “no evidence-based research” proving that inducements are culpable for increasing gambling addiction.
Still, in a statement issued by the AWC, it was noted that, “Both consumers and wagering operators would benefit from a more uniform regulatory approach.”
According to Mr. Efklides, however, the tactics of online bookmakers are unscrupulous when it comes to inducing more bets out of those who obviously can’t afford them.
He noted that one client of GHS lost $25,000 over a 17 day period, and was subsequently offered $5,000 in credit, plus marquee horse racing passes and interstate boxing tickets. He said another client already owed $11,000 when a sportsbook offered to extend his credit line to help him try to win it back.
The Herald Sun reported that it spoke to an anonymous industry insider who used to be a customer service agent for a leading online betting agency. The news outlet wrote that he claimed the operator “invested heavily in customer profiling to restrict and ban successful gamblers.”
The AWC backed the resourcefulness of online betting operators, saying punters were either restricted or banned for “reasons of risk management or integrity,” and that bookmakers should have the right to enforce risk management “as they see fit”.