RealTime IT News

Tension Mounts Over Internet Gambling

[Sydney, AUSTRALIA] The Internet Industry Association (IIA) and national law firm Minter Ellison have called on the government to rule out a comprehensive ban on Internet gambling. The federal government placed a moratorium on online gambling on May 19.

The IIA has called meeting at the ISPCON conference in Melbourne to discuss the possibility of a ban on Internet gambling - and the impact of enforcement orders on ISPs, while Minter Ellison said the government9s moratorium on new gambling sites was futile, as traffic would only be driven overseas. "The better alternative is to accept that Internet gambling is an established and growing industry, and to allow it to operate under strict government regulation," a representative said.

The IIA expressed concern that a total ban on online gambling would force government to "call on ISPs to act as intermediaries in policing anti Internet gambling laws," according to Peter Coroneos, executive director of the association. "Forty percent of our members are ISPs with no connection to the gambling industry, yet they look like bearing the brunt of this ill-conceived, politically inspired exercise."

"The trend to ban activities on the net according to political whim, irrespective of the likely success, sets a bad precedent and is potentially open ended. In the end, you just end up damaging mainstream e-commerce without advancing your original policy objective," he added.

Minter Ellison also expressed concern regarding the economic implications of a gambling ban. "If Australians are forced to gamble offshore, the money they spend is lost to another economy. With a controlled industry, at least that money can be taxed and operators can be forced to plough some of it back to assist problem gamblers," said technology and communications lawyer Robert Neely. "A total prohibition may be attractive politically - in that it demonstrates a strong stand against the social evils associated with problem gambling - but is likely to cause more harm than good," Mr Neely said.

The federal government said its moritorium legislation was "a result of [its] concern that new interactive technology, such as the Internet and datacasting, had the potential to put a virtual 'poker machine' in every home. This 'quantum leap' in accessibility to gambling had the potential to expand both the amount of gambling available in Australia as well as to exacerbate problem gambling," a statement from the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts stated.