Aussies hope for a more liberal approach to online gambling

Release of reviews and reports imminent

The Australian media are speculating that the imminent release of the government’s Productivity Commission report and a state study on problem gambling could herald a relaxation of laws against online gambling operators in the country.

The Age newspaper opines that the changes could make it easier to bet online, on mobile phones and via digital television, in a massive shake-up of Australia's gambling laws.

Two reports commissioned by the federal and state governments indicate that changes to online, television and telephone betting laws are on the way.

The Productivity Commission gambling report (see previous InfoPowa bulletins) is expected to call for a relaxation of laws banning Australian companies from providing online gambling products.

A separate government study has been commissioned to determine what impact online, telephone and digital television gambling is likely to have on problem gamblers.

While Australian companies are permitted to provide online betting on horse racing and sport, they are banned from providing online casino games and poker machines. Australians can legally gamble online on sites registered overseas, and reports suggest that the number of locals playing online casino games doubled between 2004 and 2008 to 700 000.

Serial gambling opponent and independent Senator Nick Xenophon is strongly opposed to any relaxation. ''If every mobile phone and every computer turns into a poker machine, you will be looking at a massive new tidal wave of gambling addiction in this country,'' he told the newspaper.

The objective of a tender issued by the state of Victoria's Department of Justice last week on behalf of the Ministerial Council on Gambling is to consider the ''current prevalence of problem gambling in interactive gamblers'' and ''the contribution of the interactive medium to problem gambling''.

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