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FACEBOOK ONLINE GAMBLING ROW BUILDING IN AUSTRALIA
Friday, December 2,2011 : Sen. Xenophon on the warpath again
One of Australia's most vehement anti-online gambling critics, independent Sen. Nick Xenophon is on the warpath again, claiming that he has received "a flood" of complaints regarding alleged gambling on the massive social gaming network Facebook, through the DoubleDown Casino.
The Age newspaper reports that the online casino gets around anti-gambling laws by not allowing punters to convert virtual winnings to real money, although virtual money can be earned on the site and even purchased.
This ruse appears to some extent to have backfired, as punters denied the facility of exchanging their virtual winnings for real cold hard cash are now complaining.
"The DoubleDown casino on Facebook gives players free chips - but once they are exhausted, punters are required to buy credits to continue to play online casino games such as poker and blackjack," The Age reports.
DoubleDown is covered by its Terms and Conditions, which clearly explain that "Virtual Currency and Virtual Goods may never be redeemed for 'real world' money, goods or other items of monetary value from the Site or any other party."
Disgruntled Aussie punters have now involved Sen. Xenophon in the row, and have set up a Facebook page condemning the DoubleDown rules and warning others. One constituent contacted the independent senator after he was refused a real cash withdrawal, made a complaint, but was then blocked from the Facebook site by administrators.
Xenophon refrred the matter to the Australian Communications and Media Authority, claiming that the US-based website was misleading and was in breach of online gaming laws, but ACMA responded by pointing out that the terms and conditions on the site were within the law and did not constitute gambling because it was not possible to win 'money or anything else of value' from playing the games provided.
Unappeased, Xenophon is now pursuing the matter with the federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, requesting an urgent meeting to discuss "a loophole in the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 which has allowed hundreds of Australians to lose money".
"People are paying real money to gamble on these sites," Senator Xenophon said. "But because these gamblers are forbidden by the sites from converting that virtual money back into real money, the sites aren't technically breaking any laws. This needs to change."
According to a DoubleDown spokesman millions of players return every day to the site to gamble using free chips. "It is entirely up to the user to decide if they wish to purchase virtual chips to play longer," he said.
"There are hundreds if not thousands of games on Facebook which accept virtual currency in the form of Facebook credits and we're proud to be one of Facebook's top 12 game partners."
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