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Online Betting Has Young Australians Sinking Into Worrying Debts
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Young Australians Neck-High in Gambling Debt
Australian gambler, Sang III Lee, was arrested in August of 2022 for defrauding sports betting platform PlayUp of AU $108,000 (US $68,000). The 29-year-old and father of three was spared a prison sentence but has admitted to having a serious gambling problem. Calling himself a compulsive gambler, he told the police that he owed almost $3 million to family, friends, and loan sharks and lived in a constant state of agitation about his debts.
Lee was arrested because between May 15 and June 12th, he deposited funds of $30,000 spread over twelve times using POLi Payments; however, he found a way to cheat the system as PlayUp only received three of the twelve payments. This is because Lee exploited an ambiguity in the system that permitted him to cancel the other transactions since wagers could still be placed even before the funds were received by PlayUp.
Lee was sentenced to a term of imprisonment to be served as 18 months of intensive corrections order. He was also ordered to complete 200 hours of community service. The sentence was given after Lee’s defense lawyer claimed that Lee was already taking steps to address his problem and had contacted sports betting sites he had defrauded to make amendments.
The mother of a 21-year-old man who lost around $100,000 and practically all of his life savings on online betting is one of many Australian parents hoping to set up a parliamentary inquiry to examine the effects of online gambling and the harms and damages associated with it.
She claimed that in the short period her son was allowed to use online betting apps, he had ruined friendships, destroyed his pride, and completely dissipated his parents’ trust in him. She said that despite seeking the help of psychologists, gambling support lines, and even banning himself from gambling apps, he still had access to them and managed to find more money to gamble through friends, family, banks, and loan sharks. He had an accumulated debt of $100,000.
Despite “falling off the wagon” multiple times to the extent that she even kicked him out of the house at one point, she finally decided to offer her support and help him recover.
According to her: “He’s going to be paying us back, loans, and bank loans for many years when all those savings could be going towards a house deposit or a trip away traveling and experiencing life.”
The story is similar to a father of a 20-year-old who lost $25,000 to online gambling in only 11 months. The father said that when his son lost $5,000, he banned himself from the gambling site, but soon after the temptations returned and he found himself signing up with another one. He then went on to ban himself from that one too, only to sign up for a third one. This became a vicious circle that seemed to have no end. The father also said that what made online betting so easy for his son was the fact that he could do it via a smartphone from the comfort of his home.
Should Gambling Adverts be Banned?
The parents lamented that gambling operators had engaged the services of behavioral psychologists for their marketing services, and they set up venues where they send out texts to lure prospective and existing players in.
In July of 2022, the Australian Communications and Media Authority issued an announcement saying it was launching a national self-ban register from all betting apps known as BetStop, which would be advertised all over Australian betting providers. The ACMA said this would be launched in the coming months.
The parents quoted above are constituents of MP Kate Chaney, who serves on the committee leading the gambling inquiry. Chaney is in favor of the inquiry’s emphasis on advertising.
According to Chaney:
“I guess the thing that struck me about it is it’s such a hidden problem because there’s so much shame around it; young people are happy to tell their mates about the wins but not the losses … Gambling advertising is everywhere, it’s so normalized as a part of watching the sport for young people, and then people just don’t talk about the negative part of it, so I think the issue is much bigger than we think.”
She said that disallowing online betting from appearing normal and an expected activity you engage in is the first step and a beneficial one at that.
Responsible Wagering Australia, a group that represents a few of Australia’s biggest online companies, said that the committee was looking into submissions for the inquiry, and it was expected to report its findings to parliament in 2023.