RealTime IT News

Stakes Rise in Online Gambling Debate

[Sydney, AUSTRALIA] The Australian Democrats have proposed an alternative to the Federal Government online gambling moratorium, labelling the proposed 12 month ban as ineffective.

"The Bill does not protect Australians from a casino in every lounge room and it does not address the real issue of problem gambling," said Democrats Senator Natasha Stott Despoja.

But the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston, has reacted to the new proposal by stating that "the Democrats half-baked e-solution is no solution."

While Senator Alston welcomed the "belated acknowledgement" by the Democrats that there should be a moratorium with a view to a longer term solution, he said the solution represented "little more than window dressing."

"Today's half-baked and dramatically almost incomprehensible press release from the Democrats foreshadows an approach that would leave a gaping hole for all actual and potential operators to go flat out to establish themselves in the online marketplace," he said.

The Federal Government has attempted to put in place a one year moratorium while it investigates the possibility of extending a full ban on online gambling, however Senator Stott Despoja said the Government had "once again failed to understand how the Internet works."

The moratorium would prevent all new online gambling licences being issued and existing ones from being renewed.

"The Government's objective is to investigate the feasibility of a ban on Australian Internet gambling," she said. "The online services debate and the Senate 'NetBets' inquiry has shown that a ban is not effective.

The Democrats will support a three-month non-retrospective moratorium to enable the States to establish a minimum uniform set of national regulatory principles for interactive gaming in Australia.

Like the Federal Government, the moratorium will be effective to all new licences from the commencement of the moratorium and existing licences upon renewal, and extend to all wagering and gaming services.

The Democrats have proposed the agreement should include a national public education campaign on the Australian regulation and harm minimization of Internet gambling.

"The Democrats also recommend that a public education campaign be supported by an appropriate percentage of gambling revenues from Australian licensees to a centralized fund", concluded Senator Stott Despoja.

The Internet Industry Association (IIA) has welcomed the proposed Democrat amendments to the online gambling moratorium legislation as "a sensible way forward that will break the impasse between the Commonwealth and the States and also encourage the development of a uniform approach to meet the needs of community."

The industry body's executive director, Peter Coroneos said while the IIA did not necessarily condone gambling, the existing bill before the Senate was flawed because it "denies the fact that Australians, even within a moratorium period, will still be able to access unregulated sites overseas."

In that respect, it would actually achieve a contrary result to its stated objectives," he said. "On the other hand, if the legislation is amended in the manner proposed, we anticipate that the States will move quickly to develop consistent uniform guidelines which will position Australian operations as the best regulated anywhere in the world."