Australian Government Takes Serious Steps toward Revamping Online Gambling Laws

Aussie Gaming

Aussie GamingAustralian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has taken authoritative steps toward addressing the current state of online gambling activities in the country.

Last week, PM Abbott tasked the Minister of Social Services, Scott Morrison, to take the helm in conducting a review of AU’s 2001 Interactive Gambling Act (IGA). According to Minister Morrison, the federal government will provide the terms of reference for the review.

Moreover, the Social Services Minister said they plan to provide plenty of opportunity to those who wish to get involved in the review. Although many speculate that the Abbott Government plans to implement tighter regulations on foreign-based betting facility operators, Minister Morrison said the government does not have any preconceived ideas about the matter, and that they will carry out the review in good faith.

According to Australian news reports, calls for an in-depth review of the IGA have intensified following the official federal investigations into the new sports betting system introduced by offshore-based sportsbook operators. Through Voice over IP (VoIP) technology, the advanced live betting system mimics live telephone calls; but which accordingly circumvents the IGA prohibition against placing of bets on live games via the Internet.

A number of parliament ministers and stakeholders in Australia’s gambling industry have been raising issues regarding the IGA. The online gambling laws in Australia are faulted as outmoded in light of advancements in technology that made Internet gambling more sophisticated. Reports have it that the review includes looking at the international Internet gambling scene and various regimes.

Other local news reports state that an outcome likely to come around is the creation of a national self-exclusion register, modeled after UK’s gambling regulations and system of keeping an eye on problem gamblers. Topics that are most likely to go under review are the online gambling marketing initiatives and advertising campaigns directed at Australian consumers. Anti-gambling blocs, parliament members, and sporting organisations have raised concerns that sport-betting advertisements have reached excessive levels.

Another critical issue is the proliferation of Australia-facing online gambling facilities run by overseas gambling operators. Their products and services are regarded as illegal, since the IGA prohibits such offerings if remotely served from abroad. On the economic point of view, the Australian gambling industry has been affected by the availability and accessibility of online casinos run by offshore-based gambling operators, as they do not pay the duties and fees imposed on their local counterparts.

South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon, a staunch anti-gambling advocate has accordingly started drafting proposed amendments that include a prohibition against in-play betting altogether. The SA Senator will also introduce amendments aimed at prohibiting bookmakers from offering enticements to place bets, as well as prohibiting gambling advertisements in sporting events.

Senator Xenophon said that the review gives them the opportunity to take stock of the sudden increase of online gambling, including unlawful overseas betting, and the destructive effects of online betting on sporting culture.

The Australian Wagering Council (AWC), however, believes that prohibition laws regarding in-play betting should be modified. Instead of instituting a distinction between betting via landline phone and via the Internet, the AWC is of the opinion that in-play betting restrictions should be put in place. Such restrictions will be based on the bet types and conditions authorized by the corresponding national sports regulatory body, and the state or territory regulator.