Posted 3/5/11 : Independent member of parliament wants stricter controls
Andrew Wilkie, an independent member of the Australian federal parliament and chairman of the parliamentary committee for gambling reform, this week characterised the online gambling industry as "the Wild West" and called for stricter control.
Whilst online sports betting is permitted in Australia, online gambling in other forms is not in terms of the Interactive Gambling Act, although the industry is conservatively estimated to be worth $1 billion a year. The bans have not stopped a growing number of Australians from gambling online through offshore websites.
Wilkie told the Sydney Morning Herald over the weekend that he intends to ask the reform committee to look at the subject after it finishes dealing with mandatory pre-commitments on poker machines next month. Wilkie has some political clout, having supported the rise to power of the current Aussie prime minister, Julia Gillard.
”For me, gambling reform is not a theoretical public policy issue, it's a human tragedy … I will never forget those stories and I will never forget those people,” the politician said, after recounting a tale of a woman whose husband had allegedly lost $50 000 gambling online.
Wilkie claimed, without giving specifics, that there are strong indications that online gambling was a ”significant problem in Australia" and predicted that the situation would only deteriorate further.
The newspaper revealed that despite the illegal nature of online gambling, the law is not enforced. Federal police have received 17 complaints since 2001 about suspected illegal operators but no charges have been laid.
Last year the Productivity Commission recommended regulation for internet poker, and said the government should assess whether other forms of online gambling, including casino games and poker machines, should also be allowed.
Mr Wilkie said he had an open mind on the subject but said the current situation could not continue.