Bankers say no to credit card restrictions
By maddy
Following the move by the US government to ban credit card usage on online casinos, the Australian government is planning to take similar actions. A proposal to enforce the ban on foreign online gambling sites by blocking credit-card transactions is being considered by the Federal Government as part of a review of the Interactive Gambling Act. ‘Our much-anticipated review would be completed shortly,’ said a spokeswoman for Communications Minister Daryl Williams.

The move however, has met with opposition from the Australian Bankers’ Association (ABA), which has rejected the proposal to block Australian punters from using credit cards at online casinos. Bankers argue that, customers should be allowed to spend their money how they choose and banks should not be forced to become moral arbiters. ‘We don’t think the payment system should be used to block transactions, because if it’s used in one area it could be used in others. If the Government decides to block a gambling transaction it could be used to block other transactions. We don’t think banks should be required to pay the cost of the online gambling problem,’ said an official spokesperson for the ABA.

Three years ago, an Australian legislation made gambling at casino-style sites illegal, but millions of Aussie Internet users, still continue to gamble on foreign sites. Although credit-card companies with a special code identify Internet gambling merchants, some conceal their identities by pretending not to be involved in gambling. Experts believe, enforcing the blockage, faces technical issues.

‘It is not possible to block transactions with a great degree of accuracy and there is a danger of blocking everything. For example, a newsagent selling lottery tickets could be blocked,’ said a spokeswoman for the National Australia Bank. The Commonwealth Bank, however, cites a different opinion. ‘We support government regulations requiring credit-card issuers to identify and block illegal gambling transactions. This is the most effective way of combating such transactions,’ said consumer finance general manager Rod Hyde.

Inter-church gambling taskforce estimates that 98 per cent of all Internet gambling transactions from Australia would come grinding to a halt, if the government implemented the ban. Visa and MasterCard, which facilitate the online transactions, are letting the banks settle the issue for now. ‘At present, you will either under-block or over-block. If you want to be totally accurate, work needs to be done. Currently, all gambling providers are identified in the same manner, whether they be a casino or sports gambling,’ said regulatory affairs director Albert Naffah of MasterCard.

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