Westpac joins rivals in offering gambling block for debit, credit cards

Westpac is offering customers the ability to block online gambling using debit and credit cards.

The move was in response to customer demand to cope with gambling addictions, the bank’s financial inclusion and vulnerability manager, Louisa Brock, said

“We know gambling can become an addiction for some people, at which point it can cause significant harm. By introducing the gambling block, we’re empowering our customers to stay in control of their finances.”

She said in a three-month period last year Westpac customers spent $136.8 million with online gambling merchants, nearly half of which was spent with the TAB and Lotto, and the rest with other online gambling business. In the same period only $3.2m was spent at physical gambling locations.

Brock said the majority of gambling spend was online, and at a customer’s request a block would be put on their electronic cards for a minimum three months to stop any transactions with an online gambling site. It would not apply to physical gambling outlets such as casinos or the retail seller of a Lotto ticket.

Kiwibank and ANZ have had similar voluntary bans in place for some time, however, the New Zealand industry has seemed reluctant to support a move to a legislated ban as has been put in place in Australia.

The previous Labour government had been looking at reform after a discussion paper on online gambling released by the Department of Internal Affairs four years ago drew solid support for a ban on using credit-debit cards from submitters.

The New Zealand Banking Association said at the time a block was unlikely to have the intended effect, that gamblers would find other payment options such as Paypal or WeChat, and that its members had not found evidence that participation in online gambling had a material effect on credit card defaults.

Online casino operations are banned in New Zealand but Sky City has a Malta-based business, and has previously lobbied for them to be legalised here because of a loss of business to overseas operators, but also to bring in rules to minimise harm.

The government has plans to allow, regulate and put a levy on online gaming.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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