No Changes For Australian Net Gamblers

A federal review of Australia's Internet Gambling Act is currently underway, with the issue scheduled to be considered by ministers on July 14th. At present, the outcome of the debate is reportedly undecided, but inside sources claim that the Communications Department will not propose any significant changes to the existing legislation intended to curb the growth of Internet wagering in Australia, reportedly growing at a rate of around $150 million per month.

According to a spokeswoman for Communications Minister Daryl Williams, "The report of the review of the Interactive Gambling Act is expected to be tabled shortly."

Interestingly, it appears that Australia's gaming industry, and the racing industry in particular, is the most vocal opponent of Internet gaming, due to the fact that Internet betting services (which are typically based overseas) do not financially support Australia's gaming industry. Companies like TAB Ltd and Tabcorp have orchestrated powerful lobbying campaigns against overseas betting companies attempting to gain access to the Australian market, targeting UK-based Betfair in particular.

For many, the issue isn't one of eliminating gaming, but of protecting Australian gaming interests from overseas competition. While Gaming Minister John Pandazopoulos has petitioned the government to ban Internet wagering through the Interactive Gaming Act, he is in favor of allowing state governments the option of licensing individual operators.

According to Mr. Pandazopoulos, "If the Federal Government does nothing, then the way the law is at the moment we can't act to regulate it properly and these companies can continue to take bets overseas, where they do not pay Australian tax and where they do not pay any revenue to the local gaming industry."

For others, the objection to Internet wagering transcends dollars and cents. InterChurch Gambling Taskforce chairman John Dalziel has petitioned Prime Minister John Howard to close the growing number of foreign betting agencies, stating that "We do not want to see another poker machine explosion in problem gambling activity produce another crop of victims as the result of Internet gambling."

Australian Racing Board chairman Robert Charley also wrote to Mr. Howard, voicing concern over the fact that Internet betting exchanges allowed wagering on the possibility of a horse losing a race, opening the door for horseplay. "Betting exchanges are, by definition, a medium that encourages malpractice and will undermine that public confidence," Mr. Charley said.