18/08/2015 8:54 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:50 PM AEST

Online Bookies Are Lending Up To $500,000 Credit To Problem Gamblers

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Businessman with laptop and wallet

Gamblers are getting access to up to $500,000 each in loans from online bookmakers, fuelling a dangerous increase in problem betting, Australia’s peak financial counselling organisation has warned.

Grooming tactics employed by online betting firms including credit, 'free bets', targeted emails as well as ruthless debt collection, detailed in Financial Counselling Australia’s report Duds, Mugs and the A-List.

Manager of policy Lauren Levin said betting agencies should not also be credit lenders.

“We urgently need a ban on gambling with credit,” Levin said.

“Sports betting companies should not be able to give gamblers credit, then take them to court six weeks later when they can’t pay.

“It also means a ban on gambling by transferring funds from a credit card, payday loan or similar source.

“Many clients have huge debts and are groomed to get even further into debt. The end game is debt collection, bankruptcies, broken families, court orders to seize assets, forced home sales, and even sadly, suicide.”

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon will take action to stop credit-fuelled gambling. Picture: Daniel Munoz/Fairfax Media

Independent senator Nick Xenophon said he would introduce legislation in the spring sitting of Parliament to stop these “insidious and ruthless” practices.

“Internet sports betting firms are using aggressive, high-tech strategies to target young men, increasingly to the point of ruin,” Xenophon said.

“It is deeply troubling that these firms, many of them owned in the UK and Ireland, can use unregulated credit to hook young gamblers on betting. It has to stop.”

Xenophon said sports betting firms were beyond the reach of Australia’s consumer credit protection laws and were not required to hold an Australian Credit Licence or Australian Financial Services Licence.

“The toll this industry is taking on Australians is heavy and mounting,” Xenophon said. “The legislative response must be decisive. Taking away credit is the first step.”

He said his bill would ban the provision of credit by sports betting firms and mandate a national ‘do not contact’ register for problem gamblers.