Update: Online Gambling Legalization in Australia Brought to the Fore Again

Offshore gambling websites generate around billion dollars a year from Australian punters

An estimate that Australians spend a billion dollars a year on internet gambling sites based outside of Australia has been revealed in an article published at http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/breaking/8989891/online-gambling-soars-to-1-billion/, along with the description of numerous offshore licensing jurisdictions.

This is yet another reminder that it is high time that the Australian government reconsidered its current position on internet gambling. Online betting is not forbidden in Australia, but the provision of e-gaming services to Australian customers is illegal as per the Interactive Gambling Act from 2001.

As a result, the Australians have started opting for e-gaming services provided by Malta, Gibraltar and Canada based companies, to name but a few, prompting the federal government to propose ISP blocking initiative targeting 'undesirable websites'. The idea has been sharply criticized by the international community as an example of Web censorship and a solution with low practical effects.

"Prohibition has not been very effective," Sally Gainsbury, of Southern Cross University's Centre for Gambling Education and Research said in the article. "We know that 30 percent of Australians over age 16 have gambled online, investing about $1 billion in 2010 - and that's probably an underestimate.”

She added that the restrictive policy did not help curbing e-gaming, further explaining: "The advantages of regulating this industry would be the safeguards that could be introduced - to protect the punter - as part of any licensing arrangement. We would also know who was playing, identify risk behaviour and intervene where appropriate."

According to Rod West, Centrecare acting executive manager (counselling), problem gambling online is on the increase due to higher accessibility and strong awareness of e-gaming, with young population being particularly exposed.

In its last year’s report, Productivity Commission indicated that the stringent Australian regulations have been "driving consumers to international sites, some with poor harm minimization features and unscrupulous business practices".

"Regulated access to domestic or licensed overseas online providers - rather than prohibition - has potential benefits. It could achieve many of the benefits of online gambling to consumers, while diverting consumers away from unsafe sites to ones that met stringent probity and consumer safety standards - thus reducing the risks of harm to online gamblers," the Commission stated.

However, the current federal government rejected the Commission’s recommendations, though they were rather moderate and based on "a gradual approach to managed liberalization that began with a relatively "safe" form of online gambling - poker card games - would be appropriate."

On the other hand, Stephen Conroy, Communications Minister, famous for his lobbying for the Internet censorship bill, has promised to look into the e-gaming regulatory framework in other countries.

Yahoo News report that Terry Waldron, Western Australia Racing and Gaming Minister, said that the growth of online gambling has been a major market development over the last few years and has pushed legislators to start designing solutions against the higher problem gambling incidence.

John Beagle has been promoting the idea of the online poker liberalization for many years now. As a former casino consultant, former president of the Australian Casino Association, and acknowledged online gambler, Beagle commented that players have been forced to play on websites based outside their homeland and spend millions of dollars overseas. In support of the online poker, he described it as "… a sociable game, because you are playing against other individuals around the world, using your skills and your intelligence."

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