NT Code of Practice for Responsible Online Gambling 2016
For many people, gambling is an enjoyable activity that does not cause issues or problems for themselves or others. Unfortunately, some people can experience a loss of control from their gambling that may result in problems for themselves, their families, their employer and the community in general.
The Code of Practice for Responsible Online Gambling (the Code), which is mandatory, aims to minimise, to individuals and the community, the harms associated with the loss of control of gambling through the creation of responsible gambling environments in line with national and international best practice and community expectations. The Code sets out minimum requirements for Northern Territory online gambling operators to adopt in order to reduce harms associated with problem gambling. Online gambling operators are encouraged to implement additional strategies to further minimise harm.
This Code applies to all online gambling licensed through the Northern Territory of Australia including web-based, app and telephone betting on any platform such as computers, tablets and smartphones.
To enable licensees to transition requirements, the Code, which is mandatory, will come into effect on and from 1 March 2016.
What is responsible gambling?
Responsible gambling is where individuals are able to make informed decisions about how they gamble. A regulated environment where the potential for gambling related harms are minimised can contribute to people gambling responsibly. It occurs through the actions and ownership by individuals, communities, the regulator and the gambling industry in achieving socially acceptable gambling outcomes.
For individuals, responsible gambling means:
- they may gamble for pleasure and entertainment but are aware of the likelihood of losing, and understand the associated risks
- they exercise control over their gambling behaviour
- gambling occurs in balance with other activities in their lives and is not causing problems or harms for themselves or others.
The broader community, including online gambling operators, have a role in responsible gambling through:
- shared responsibility for generating awareness of the risks associated with gambling
- creating and promoting environments that prevent or minimise problem gambling
- being responsive to community concerns around gambling.
What is problem gambling?
In their 2010 report, the Productivity Commission reported that adult prevalence rates are 0.7% and 1.7% of the adult population for problem and moderate risk gambling respectively. Further reports show that a further 1.5% to 2% of adults have milder difficulties. However, problem gambling often impacts on those beyond the individual, such as family, friends, employers and those in the broader community.
Problem gambling is characterised by difficulties in limiting money and/or time spent on gambling which leads to negative impacts for the gambler, others, or for the community.
The negative impacts resulting from problem gambling broadly include, but are not limited to:
- excessive financial losses relative to the gambler’s income
- adverse personal effects on the gambler, family, friends and work colleagues as well as the broader community
- adverse physical and mental health issues
- negative impacts on work performance
- legal problems.
However, the negative impacts from problem gambling can run much deeper.
From a personal perspective, a problem gambler may experience:
- poor health
- thoughts of suicide including, sometimes, attempts
- isolation from family and friends
- theft, fraud and other crimes.
From the perspective of family and friends of a problem gambler, they may experience:
- neglect by the gambler
- the gambler missing family functions or other obligations
- regular requests for money
- pawning or selling family items
- arguments over time and money spent gambling
- domestic and family violence
- children may be left unsupervised or neglected due to the time spent gambling
- family breakdown.
Employers may face issues with a problem gambler employee including:
- poor performance
- theft from the employer or other staff members.
While not as widely recognised as personal and family issues, the broader community suffers from problem gambling through:
- costs associated with family breakdown
- the need for Government to establish intervention services and counselling support
- costs associated with imprisonment for fraud and theft
- costs associated with hospitalisations
- reduction in spending on other community activities and businesses.
Cultural and geographic diversity
It is recognised that there are cultural and geographic diversities that gambling operators need to respond to. Consideration should be given to ensuring people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds can access the relevant prevention and protection measures outlined in the Code.
It is also recognised that different geographic areas or jurisdictions may have particular requirements that, where appropriate, gambling operators will take into account when implementing the Code.
The Code has been established to achieve the following:
- minimise the extent of gambling related harms to individuals and the broader community
- enable individuals to make informed decisions about their gambling habits
- enable people (not just the gambler) adversely affected by problem gambling to have access to timely and appropriate support and information
- promote a shared understanding between individuals, the broader community, the gambling industry and the regulator of responsible gambling practices and an understanding of the rights and responsibilities of all parties
- ensure online gambling operators offer services for the provision of gambling products in a responsible manner.
Reviewing the Code
As best practice actions are constantly evolving and changing, the Code will be subject to regular reviews.
The reviews will take into account new operating practices, the effectiveness of existing measures, changes in technology, contemporary business practices, the research and study of gambling in Australia and overseas and other pertinent circumstances.
Responsible online gambling practices
The Code commits online gambling operators to responsible gambling practices with a focus on client protection.
Practices have been organised into the following broad categories:
- Provision of information
- Interaction with clients and community
- Training and skills development
- Exclusion provisions
- Harm minimisation
- Financial transactions
- Advertising and promotions
- Participation in gambling research and evaluation
- Privacy protections
1. Provision of information
Online gambling operators are to make available information that will allow their clients to make informed decisions regarding their gambling habits. The following information is to be displayed on the online gambling operator’s website. Online gambling operators offering telephone services must have in place suitable initiatives to achieve the same outcomes.
1.1 Responsible gambling information
The online gambling operator is to ensure that they have a webpage outlining their policies, procedures and commitment to responsible gambling practices including a Gamble Responsibly message. Information on where clients can seek help with gambling related issues must also be displayed.
While it is preferable to have a link to the responsible gambling information on each page, a link must, at a minimum, be located on the operator’s home page.
1.2 Odds and win rates
Information regarding the odds and win rates for products offered by the operator, where appropriate, must be accessible on the website and displayed in a manner readily understood by a client e.g. the chance of winning a jackpot is 1 in 500,000.
1.3 Information provided on request
An online gambling operator must provide the following types of information in relation to its responsible gambling practices on request:
- responsible gambling policy documentation including, where appropriate, policies for addressing problem gambling issues
- the nature of the events, games, game rules, odds and returns to players for all products offered, where relevant, and
- information relating to the operator’s Self-Exclusion process.
Information must be sent to the client via a medium they have access to, such as telephone, email or post.
1.4 Terms and conditions
Online gambling operators must ensure their terms and conditions are easily located on their website, with a link to them on each page. Terms and conditions must be clear with regards to how betting is managed, particularly where maximum payout limits exist. Staff should also be appropriately trained to ensure client questions regarding terms and conditions are answered correctly, readily and clearly.
2. Interactions with clients
2.1 Responsible gambling liaison role
Online gambling operators must have an appropriate level of management available to:
- assist staff and clients during those hours where staff are available to speak to clients
- provide appropriate information and assistance to clients with gambling related problems
- support staff in providing assistance to these affected clients
- provide confidential assistance to any staff who themselves may have gambling related issues
- establish policies and procedures that allow customers to take steps to limit their gambling if desired
- have available, for clients and staff, details of appropriate gambling support services.
2.2 Gambling incident register
Online gambling operators will ensure they record all actions taken by staff in assisting clients in accordance with this Code through a Gambling Incident Register. The register will need to include, as a minimum, the following information:
- time, date and nature of problem gambling related issue or incident
- name and address of the person the incident relates to
- the name of the staff member involved
- the action they took.
The register should also list excluded clients including their personal details such as name, address, date of birth, contact details, the dates of exclusion, and any other relevant information.
2.3 Client problem gambling incidents
Online gambling operators must establish and promote mechanisms to recognise and resolve issues relating to client problem gambling incidents. All incidents are to be dealt with quickly and efficiently and all resolutions must be recorded in the Gambling Incident Register.
3. Training and skills
3.1 New staff
All new staff, engaged in client interaction, must complete appropriate responsible gambling training within three (3) months of commencing employment. Training should include:
- identifying problem gambling Red Flag behaviours
- ability to provide clients with full information on operator’s gambling products or direct clients to where they can find the information
- ability to provide clients with appropriate odds for a product when requested
- the operator’s self-exclusion policy and processes
- answer questions regarding the operator’s terms and conditions, both generally and for specific bet types.
Where the staff member may not know the answer to questions raised by the client, they must be able to direct the call to the appropriate person or arrange for a response to be provided at a later time.
Problem gambling Red Flag behaviours may include, but are not limited to:
- gambling for an extended period
- changing gambling patterns
- increase in deposit frequency
- escalating sums of money deposited
- thinks they can control outcome or believes myths
- accuses online gambling operator of changing payouts or rigging systems
- admissions of being drunk or under the influence of other drugs
- exhibits signs of distress such as crying or swearing
- expresses guilt or remorse for gambling
- verbally abusing staff
- threatens property or staff
- remarks that may indicate serious overspending
- repeatedly commenting about family problems
- shows concern about losses and payouts
- indicating they need a break from gambling
- discloses problem gambling.
3.2 On-going training
Online gambling operators are to ensure that all staff, including senior staff and managers overseeing these employees, who have interaction with clients, complete refresher training courses regularly, but at least every 12 months, to maintain optimum understanding of harm minimisation strategies and promote a responsible gambling environment.
While the use of a Registered Training Organisation is preferable, training conducted in-house is acceptable; however the operator must provide the training material upon request by the regulator.
3.3 Record of training
A Gambling Training Register is to be maintained and kept as a part of responsible gambling records. This register should include staff name, date of training and type of training. A copy of this register must be provided to the regulator upon request.
4. Exclusion of problem gamblers
Online gambling operators are to make available to their clients, the option of excluding themselves from the gambling service where the client feels they are developing a gambling problem.
The option should also be offered to exclude from all Northern Territory online gambling operators.
4.1 Client responsibility
The operator’s clients will be encouraged to take responsibility for their gambling activity through the online gambling operator’s provision of clearly defined terms and conditions, rules, odds and player returns.
4.2 Self-exclusion features
Online gambling operators must provide self-exclusion features on their website to enable their clients the opportunity to exclude themselves from accessing the operator’s gambling products. The operator must offer this option via an online process or a form based process, and must ensure suitable internal procedures are in place to have any self-exclusion request dealt with immediately. The option for exclusion from all Northern Territory online gambling operators must be included.
In addition to having its own process for a client to activate an exclusion, the online gambling operator must also have in place procedures that will allow it to process a request on a self-exclusion form developed by the regulator and available from the Departmental website, when lodged by a client.
All self-exclusion actions must be recorded in the Gambling Incident Register.
4.3 Funds paid out
Online gambling operators will ensure all outstanding funds are paid out to a client who has self-excluded, subject to appropriate and necessary checks and verifications.
4.4 Counselling contact information
Online gambling operators will promptly offer clients who seek self-exclusion contact information for appropriate counselling agencies.
4.5 Self-exclusion from other gambling operators
Online gambling operators will ensure clients who have self-excluded are given support and encouragement in seeking self-exclusions from other Australian gambling operators.
4.6 Correspondence or promotional material
Online gambling operators are to ensure they have in place suitable procedures to ensure correspondence or promotional material is not sent to clients who are excluded from their services or who request that this information not be sent to them.
5. Harm minimisation measures
Online gambling operators must offer harm minimisation measures to protect the interests of gamblers and their friends and family, that are consistent with the responsible gambling measures cited in this Code.
5.1 Voluntary pre-commitment features
Online gambling operators must offer pre-commitment facilities that allow a client to set a maximum spend and/or deposit and/or time limit. Clients should be able to decrease these limits immediately, however, any increase to a limit, must not take effect for at least 24 hours.
5.2 Self-assessment tools
Online gambling operators are to offer access to self-assessment tools (through links to appropriate gambling support sites), to assist clients to manage their gambling activities.
5.3 Activity statements
Online gambling operators must ensure that client activity statements are available online and upon request by the client. Activity statements must include the following information for each transaction:
- description of the transaction
- the account balance
- win/loss information
- time spent gambling online (not applicable to sports bookmakers).
5.4 Intoxicated clients
Online gambling operators are to take all reasonable steps to refuse a client and prevent a client from gambling if suspected of being drunk or under the influence of other drugs.
For the purposes of this code minors refers to people who have not yet attained the age of 18 years.
Online gambling operators are to adopt appropriate strategies to ensure minors are prevented from gambling including ensuring their website does not induce minors to gamble.
6.1 Prohibition of minors
Minors are prohibited from gambling and online gambling operators must ensure they have appropriate processes in place to prevent minors from accessing gambling services.
Online gambling operators must have a notification on their website that draws attention to client’s responsibility of not allowing minors to gamble.
Online gambling operators must ensure their websites and apps allow for filtering software to be applied. The website should also encourage the use of filtering software on client devices to prevent access by minors.
6.3 Identification verification
Online gambling operators are to obtain adequate evidence of identity within 45 days of an account being opened or before winnings may be withdrawn, whichever occurs first.
- online gambling operators must suspend the account if identification verification is not obtained within 45 days
- online gambling operators are to return deposited funds and close the account immediately if identification shows the person is not over 18 years of age.
6.4 Activities for minors
Online gambling operators must not run any activities on their website or apps aimed at minors whether those activities involve gambling or not.
6.5 Minors as staff members
Online gambling operators are not to allow minors to have interaction with clients where that interaction would involve the operator’s gambling products.
7. Financial transactions
Financial transactions associated with gambling, including the provision of a deferred settlement facility, are to be undertaken in a financially responsible manner.
Online gambling operators must ensure deposit transfers are to be carried out on a webpage separate from the gambling pages.
7.2 Deferred settlements
Where the operator has approval to offer Deferred Settlement Facilities, they are required to adhere to the Deferred Settlement Code.
8. Advertising and promotions
Advertising and promotions are to be delivered in an honest and responsible manner with consideration given to the potential impact on people adversely affected by gambling.
8.1 Compliance with the advertising code of ethics
Advertisements must comply with all relevant codes established by Australian Association of National Advertisers including the overarching Code of Ethics and codes established by the Communications Council. Any television advertising and promotion must also comply with the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice established by Free TV Australia.
8.2 Accurate details
The operator will ensure that all terms and conditions associated with all promotions, bonus offers, competitions etc are clearly defined and accessible.
8.3 Problem gambling signage
Online gambling operators must ensure advertising and promotions contain appropriate problem gambling warning messages in a clearly visible manner.
8.4 Notices of winnings paid
The advertising of winnings paid, where the personal details of the winner are used, must be confined to the operator’s website. Generic messages, such as ‘Players have won more than $1m this month’ may be advertised in places other than the operator’s website (except where minors gather).
8.5 False impressions
No advertising produced by an online gambling provider is to give the impression that gambling is a reasonable strategy for financial betterment, i.e. advertisements should centre on gambling as entertainment.
8.6 Urging to buy
Online gambling operators are not to call or otherwise urge non-gambling clients to use their gambling services.
Advertising displays and point of sale material for gambling services must not be directed at minors, portray minors participating in gambling, or be set up in an area that specifically targets minors.
8.8 Alcohol consumption
Online gambling operators will ensure no advertising depicts or promotes the consumption of alcohol while gambling.
9. Participation in gambling research and evaluation
Online gambling operators are encouraged to participate in gambling research and activities if approached. While the regulator cannot force the operator to participate, such participation lends credence to the harm minimisation strategies that the operator is employing.
Where the operator has concerns about the bonafides of a request for them to participate in research, they should contact the regulator in the appropriate jurisdiction to confirm the request’s legitimacy.
10. Privacy protections
Where an online gambling operator is not subject to the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth), they are required to have in place suitable policies and procedures to protect client information.
This will include appropriate security safeguards to protect client information from unauthorised access. The operator must provide full details of their privacy policies and procedures to the regulator upon request.