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Should banks offer credit to problem gamblers? Royal commiss

Source:sites edit:casino time:2018-02-11

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Should banks offer credit to problem gamblers? Royal commission urged to investigate

By consumer affairs reporter Sarah Farnsworth and the Specialist Reporting Team's Naomi Selvaratnam

Posted February 11, 2018 06:04:33

Mitchell Spiteri

Photo: By the time he was 20, Mitchell Spiteri was placing daily bets on gambling websites. (ABC News: Marcus Alborn)

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Map: Australia

It's been more than a year since Mitchell Spiteri placed a bet, but there was once a time when his life was ruled by gambling.

Key points:

As of February 17, laws banning gambling companies from giving credit to people will come into effect

Banks still able to provide credit to gamblers via credit cards, overdrafts and personal loans

Banking royal commission to examine cases of problem gamblers getting credit from banks

His problem began slowly at 18, and in two years had escalated to the point where all he could think about was his next punt.

By the time he had turned 20, Mr Spiteri said he had lost control, placing bets daily via gambling websites.

"It would be a constant struggle of fighting the urge to bet. When money came into the account it was almost like a straight away bet," Mr Spiteri said.

"It gave me a rush and it was so easy to get that rush again, and at an early age of my life it was something that was hard for me to control.

"It just grew and grew and grew."

Mr Spiteri has worked full-time since he was 16. He had a regular income and had previously repaid a $5,000 loan.

While he might appear to be a good loan candidate, his bank, National Australia Bank (NAB), had access to his personal account details.

A simple glance at his transaction history showed Mr Spiteri was betting hundreds of dollars a day with online companies Tom Waterhouse and Ladbrokes, along with casinos and pokie venues.

Mitchell Spiteri's bank statement shows his gambling debits.

Photo: Mr Spiteri's bank statement shows his gambling debits. (Supplied)

"I was at one of the highest points of my gambling addiction. I had no money and I got a letter in the mail and it said I could have $25,000 — this was from NAB," Mr Spiteri said.

"Being in a state of addiction and despair I obviously jumped for it. Straight away it drove my gambling into the deep end really hard, and I was already in the deep end."

Within days, NAB had transferred $25,000 into his savings account. He quickly lost it all.

"When you lose such a big amount of money like this and you go into debt, I felt like I couldn't get back from it," Mr Spiteri said.

At the point that Mr Spiteri was offered the loan by NAB, he said he felt unable to control his behaviour.

"You get these offers all the time, especially when you gamble, and the banks can see these transactions surely and they know when you are at you're most vulnerable," he said.

NAB sold on Mr Spiteri's debt to a debt collector. His father has since gone guarantor on a second personal loan, as he works to pay it off.

The bank should have done a check: financial counsellor

Mr Spiteri's financial counsellor Pauline Smith said a prudent check of his personal savings account would have shown the severity of his gambling problem.

Classification

Casino websites wishes you to enjoy online casino responsibly.

Never play online casino with money you can't afford to lose and be aware of the fact that gambling is not a way of earning money.

Gambling may cause pathological addiction if it is not enjoyed in moderation.

If you feel like you have to limit your gambling behavior, contact Gamcare for professional help.

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