Online sports betting a quick, easy way to lose lots

ONLINE sports betting fuelled by access to credit and other enticements can be a quick and easy way to lose money, and is a growing problem in the Northern Rivers.

A new report by Financial Counselling Australia into online sports betting found it magnified the difficult issues already associated with gambling because it was readily available through mobile phones and other devices.

The industry can also provide credit or other incentives, making it easy to lose large amounts of money much more quickly compared to other forms of gambling such as poker machines.

The report - Duds, Mugs and the A-List: The Impact of Uncontrolled Sports Betting - highlights a case where a man lost $160,000 in just four sports betting sessions.

Northern Rivers Gambling Counselling Service manager Cliff Banks said online sports betting was a significant and growing issue for the local region.

"The damage can be done so quickly and easily ... an individual can easily lose control or not really be aware of what they are up to," he said.

Being able to gamble with a mobile phone means people can do it anywhere, any time, and people lose control of what they are doing, Mr Banks says.

"I see this as a really bad thing, a dark cloud," he said.

Mr Banks hasn't collected any statistics but his "gut feeling" is that more and more people are using their phones and computers to gamble.

"There is a lot happening out there," he said.

When he heard the report was being written, he recommended its author speak to one of his clients, a 30-year-old blue-collar worker who is dealing with a sports gambling problem.

"He has just lost so much money, and he wasn't really aware of it," Mr Banks said.

His client found he was throwing bets on all the time.

The FCA report found online sport gamblers were encouraged to bet with the offer of "free bets" or "bonus bets".

FCA manager policy Lauren Levin said gambling fuelled by debt facilitated by the sports betting companies only made the problem worse, and was a practice that should be banned.

"Sports betting is portrayed as a bit of fun, but what financial counsellors are seeing is lives being destroyed," she said.

"Many clients have huge debts and are groomed to get even further into debt. The end game is debt collection, bankruptcies, broken families, court orders to seize assets, forced home sales and even, sadly, suicide."

Several online sports betting companies were contacted for comment on the FCA report, but did not reply by deadline.

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