RealTime IT News

Australian Government to Consider Net Gambling Ban

The federal government is considering banning Internet gambling in Australia, Prime Minister John Howard said this week.

In a statement released yesterday, Howard said he was "particularly concerned about the effect of a rapid expansion of Internet gambling and the Government will be investigating the feasibility and consequences of banning Internet gambling."

"Internet gambling has the potential to dramatically increase the number of problem gamblers because it will be accessible to every household 24 hours a day," he added.

The statement coincided with the release of the final report by the Productivity Commission on Australia's gambling industries. It found that around 290,000 Australians were what it defined problem gamblers, who lost an average of AUS$12,000(US$7920) a year.

Although gambling is traditionally the responsibility of state governments, Howard said this Federal initiative is part of a "national response to problem gambling."

"The Commonwealth has a direct responsibility in relation to the use of the Internet for gambling," Howard added.

A key recommendation of the Productivity Commission's report is the establishment of a ministerial council on gambling, that will focus on the impact of gambling both online and offline, and the feasibility of imposing a ban on Internet gambling sites.

A draft of the report released in July found that 80 per cent of Australians had gambled in some form in 1998, and that only 0.6 per cent of Australians had gambled online.

Australia has been known as a haven for both local and international online gambling operations, particularly with the prospect of the US government's Kyl Bill banning Internet gambling sites from operating on its shores.

Gambling and betting sites eBet Online, Go Corp and Lasseters Online have all traded to Australian and international punters from domestic bases.

Lasseters is also the first Australian Internet gambling site to be government-regulated, as the company works closely with the Northern Territory government to ensure it prevents underage access and provides limits for habitual gamblers.

If the federal government does decide to impose a ban, such operations may need to move their operations off Australian shores.

Howard declined to provide details of the timing or scope of any proposed Internet gambling ban.