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.

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