Lessons Not Learned from History
Throughout the annals of history, humanity has displayed a tendency to repeat its mistakes, often expecting different outcomes – a phenomenon aptly defined as insanity by Albert Einstein. Australia's recent implementation of BetStop, a system aimed at addressing issues related to gambling harm, once again raises questions about our collective ability to learn from past experiences.
Several years ago, The Australian Federal Minister for Communications, Stephen Conroy1 proposed an approach, suggesting that internet service providers filter unwanted content. At that time, those with even a basic understanding of technology recognised such a system was destined to fail. Today, it is widely acknowledged that quick fixes like BetStop are a less than band aid solution.
BetStop, despite being portrayed as a comprehensive answer, falls short in several critical ways. It only covers licensed Australian gambling services, leaving offshore gambling sites well beyond the reach of government regulation. Furthermore, BetStop's verification process remains clouded in uncertainty, potentially allowing individuals to easily circumvent it.
Stopping a fraction of sites, where people simply gamble overseas and / or potentially use another identity is not a fit for purpose solution. What is really needed is complete blocking for people at risk.
In the United Kingdom, the failure of GamStop stands as a stark reminder of the limitations inherent in such systems. In fact, approximately 60% of inquiries from the UK ask whether GamBlock® can effectively block all gambling sites, highlighting the shortcomings of simplistic solutions.
Like GamStop, individuals found ways to bypass BetStop within days of its release, with people posting YouTube videos, web pages and the like - a development that surprised no one. The ineffectiveness of BetStop and similar systems is exacerbated by the ease with which individuals can circumvent them using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to access overseas sites. These loopholes render the government's efforts akin to treading water, making no substantial progress in addressing the profound social issue of gambling harm.
One of the most disconcerting aspects of this flawed approach is that individuals already vulnerable to gambling harm will now face increased risk, as BetStop’s failure fosters the misconception that implementing an effective gambling block is an unachievable objective.
Attempting to apply 20th-century solutions to a 21st-century problem is a misguided endeavour. If the Australian government is genuinely committed to combating gambling harm, it must acknowledge the need for a comprehensive global solution. Governments worldwide are grappling with the challenge of regulating overseas gambling, but there is hope in the form of GamBlock®. It absolutely blocks access to these sites and activities, providing a complete shield for those at risk.
While the government's decision to ban the use of credit cards as a means to combat gambling harm is an intention in the right direction, it falls short of addressing the fundamental issue. Methods like PayPal and other financial facilitators still enable gambling payments, perpetuating the harm. Addiction often fuels resourcefulness. People harmed by gambling, motivated by their impulses, are skilled at finding ways around obstacles. Presenting the blocking of credit cards as a major blow to preventing gambling harm reveals a certain naivety in addressing this serious addiction.
Addressing any addiction demands a multi-faceted strategy, not a mere checkbox solution.
Based on GamBlock®'s extensive experience, “harm minimisation”, as discussed in this article2, has proven ineffective. Numerous individuals have returned to us even after participating in such programs. It is now imperative to relegate "harm minimisation" to the outdated lexicon, just as terms like "responsible gambling" and "problem gambling" were consigned to the scrap heap some time ago.
In the words of Gamblers Anonymous, unchecked gambling can lead individuals to "the gates of prison, insanity, or death"3. We cannot afford to be complacent with half-hearted solutions that do little to stem the tide of addiction and its consequences.
Regrettably, GamStop and BetStop offer more vulnerabilities than protection for those affected by gambling harm. Their limited coverage, susceptibility to evasion tactics, and inability to adapt to the ever-changing online gambling landscape render them ineffective in our fight against this scourge.
So, why have these flawed systems been launched in Australia? For years, I have urged governments worldwide to consider the limitations of systems like ISP filtering1, geo-location4 and parochial blocking5. Yet, when they disregard these warnings, it is their citizens who suffer.
In some jurisdictions, the allure of lucrative positions in the gambling industry after political tenures only further hampers progress in addressing gambling harm. The release of GamStop did boost GamBlock® sales, as BetStop has done. However, our true aim has always been to save lives, particularly those of individuals ensnared in the web of addiction.
GamBlock® is the solution.
To those who might question my motives and accuse me of promoting my product, let me remind you that GamBlock® was once freely available in 2000. Our objectives have never wavered: to save peoples’ lives and to provide a genuine solution to gambling harm. More recently, due to the inordinate amount of child gamblers, our added focus has also been on saving children’s lives.
Governments worldwide must recognise that GamBlock® has been a viable solution for over two decades. The launch of BetStop, in the very country where GamBlock® originated, after all these years, underscores the need to make the public aware that effective protection has existed all along.
In conclusion, we urge the Australian government to step up its efforts to combat gambling harm. We must move beyond ineffective half-measures and truly assist those affected by gambling harm. The time has come to protect our citizens and their hard-earned money from being wasted on gambling, ensuring safety for all.
About the Author David Warr
I have been helping parents and children harmed by gambling since 2000.
It is my hope that the political will to help children and families harmed by gambling will eventuate soon.
1 - Stephen Conroy
4 - geo-location