The Australian government's controversial ban on internet gambling was the subject of this week’s current affairs program The World Today aired by the Australian national broadcaster ABC which focused was on the inefficient law enforcement and government's negative response to the Productivity Commission’s recommended legalization of the online games.
The government confirmed rejecting the Commission's recommendations earlier this year despite the evidence that the interest for online gambling did not decrease and the fact that many overseas-based websites have been offering services to Aussies and earning millions of dollars in the process.
The ABC’s program drew attention to the lack of prohibition effects, and the legal experts’ warning that Australians are now exposed to suspicious online casinos sometimes operated by owners of dubious integrity.
The show also presented the interviews with some online punters, and discussed the issue of aggressive and intrusive marketing of online casinos once a gambler had provided contact details.
The issue of problem gamblers was raised by one of the interviewees, Derek Tuffield, Gambling Help Network chairman and Lifeline Darling Downs CEO, who claimed that people betting online allegedly have gambling problems to a greater extent than those using land-based venues.
"Problem gamblers are about 20 percent of people who are going online at the moment which is much, much higher, almost 20 times higher than what we've seen at a land-based level," he claimed.
The enforcement of 2001 Interactive Gambling Act was brought to the limelight by another interviewee, Jamie Nettleton, who claimed that no-one has been prosecuted under the mentioned Law.
"It hasn't really been enforced at all. And indeed it's legislation which is principally directed at people outside Australia. And even if attempts were made to enforce it, it's very unlikely to actually be enforced against the providers of those services," Nettleton, as a senior counsel in gambling law, said.
He went on to comment the online gambling prohibition imposed by the Federal government arguing that it failed leading to the country’s inferior position the regulation of internet gambling websites, even though Australia was once the forerunner in the field of progressive strategies for online gambling.
"The difficulty is that prohibition just isn't working," Nettleton said in conclusion.
Dr Sally Gainsbury, a researcher in online gambling in Australia, agreed that the government has failed to keep up with the growing online gaming industry.
"Policy just stopped when the Interactive Gaming Act came in. Internet gambling itself is very dynamic and it's moved and changed and participation has increased. So it is suggested that this prohibitionary stance might be outdated and more up-to-date regulation is needed to manage and to appropriately deal with internet gambling in Australia," Dr Gainsbury said.
The show also referred to the growth of on-line gambling options with the rise of social media and internet on mobile devices.
Legalisation of some types of online gaming such as poker has been recommended by the Productivity Commission in attempt to ensure higher-level of regulation in the gaming industry.
On behalf of the Government, a Communications Department spokesman told ABC that the Gillard government is getting advice on overseas approaches and that the issue will be discussed at the next COAG meeting
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