Australian gaming clubs movement intends to attack online gambling

The Sydney Morning Herald has reported that the Australian registered gaming clubs movement intends to attack online gambling operators by lobbying to have them observe some of the restrictions terrestrial pubs and clubs face such as bans on inducement and credit card betting.

In a move clearly designed to hit back at a competitive betting sector, Clubs Australia said that it will use the Productivity Commission's inquiry into gambling to call for Internet gambling companies to meet the laws that apply to clubs, pubs and casinos that operate poker machines.

The action could impact online operators like Centrebet and Betfair that look set to prosper because the State Government lifted advertising restrictions on online gaming after the West Australian Government lost a High Court case that would have stopped Betfair from operating there (see previous InfoPowa reports).

A recent address by the chairman of Centrebet, Graham Kelly, at the company's annual meeting put the share of internet thoroughbred wagering as 19 percent of the market, up from 13 percent five years ago.

David Costello, the Clubs Australia chief executive said Internet gambling was "...now so popular that federal, state and territory governments must act to ensure it is subject to the same checks and balances that apply to poker machines.

"Poker machines are the most heavily regulated form of gambling in Australia," Costello said, adding that In New South Wales alone there are more than 200 pieces of law relating to their operation. "Yet when it comes to online gambling, governments have given the tick to almost 100 businesses that have secured a gambling licence with virtually no obligation to responsible gambling measures," he claimed.

"Standardising gambling laws would mean online operators would be banned from accepting bets placed with a credit card and offering gambling inducements such as $1000 in free bets, and would also be required to have staff trained in responsible gambling … If you go to the Centrebet website and click on Responsible Wagering, you will be directed to a website in Los Angeles which offers nothing more than an email address."

Without specifying the source, Costello alleged that recent studies showed more than one in five online gamblers [20 percent] were problem gamblers.

"Clubs have worked tirelessly with government to significantly reduce the level of problem gambling in the community," Costello claimed. "We are not prepared to sit back and watch this hard work be lost by a group of online cowboys who think responsible gambling is providing an email address to a counselling centre located in Los Angeles."

Costello's comments presage the Clubs Australia submission to the Productivity Commission inquiry into gambling. The commission is investigating gambling and problem gambling in Australia and will deliver a final report to the federal government in November.

Responding to the comments, Betfair's Australian CEO Andrew Twaits, said measures by Betfair were more effective at protecting problem gamblers than those imposed by other gambling operators. Family members were able to exclude gamblers from the site, and gamblers had the power to restrict the amount they bet each month and exclude themselves from the site, he pointed out.

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