AUSSIE PARLIAMENTARIANS BRIEFED ON GOVERNMENT'S INTERNET GAMBLING INTENTIONS (Update)
Human Services Minister Alan Tudge preps lawmakers on upcoming announcement.
The Australian federal government's reaction to the O'Farrell review of online gambling was briefed to parliamentarians by Human Services Minister Alan Tudge Wednesday as predicted by The Australian newspaper (see previous InfoPowa report), and the future will apparently offer some challenges to corporate bookmakers like William Hill, Ladbrokes and Bet365 who have been prospering from workarounds on in-play betting.
Minister Tudge gave legislators a preview of the upcoming announcement by the government on its intentions following the O'Farrell recommendations, revealing that there will be a moratorium on in-play betting until at the very least the forthcoming national elections have been completed, when the issue will be re-visited.
Reports from the briefing suggest that back-benchers were broadly supportive of the government's strategy on the issue.
The minister also confirmed earlier predictions by The Australian that online bookies will no longer be permitted to offer punters credit, and the introduction of tougher enforcement on unlicensed offshore internet operators accessing Aussie gamblers, which may include ISP and financial transaction blocking.
The newspaper points out that domestic bookmakers Tatts, Tabcorp, pubs and clubs and the racing industry have been lobbying for such changes for competitive reasons and will welcome the government's plan, but foreign-owned corporate bookmakers will feel some financial pain from the restrictions.
Government's timing and the moratorium appear to be politically motivated; by deferring the final decision until after the election, the government has "shielded itself from marginal seat campaigns from pubs and clubs and other opponents of in-play betting and has also robbed anti-gambling campaigner and independent senator Nick Xenophon of a stick to beat it with."
Minister Tudge revealed that the government is taking a three-stage approach to gambling reform, starting with consumer protection measures such as a nation-wide self-exclusion system and laws governing bonuses and inducements to gambling, then tackling offshore bookmakers, and finally deciding the issue of in-play betting.
The Australian reports that the government's intention is to amend the Interactive Gaming Act 2001 to clarify that foreign unlicensed online operators may not take bets from Australian residents. The Australian Media and Communications Authority, will be given additional powers to enforce the amendments.
"If the government’s measures work, revenue would flow back to the licensed Australian players, including Tabcorp and Tatts, which are paying more than $1bn a year in state wagering taxes and product fees while their online rivals are exempt from wagering taxes and pay tens of millions in product fees," the newspaper observes.
The government's wider intentions apparently include the harmonisation of betting laws in consultation with the provinces. One area the government will not be immediately addressing is the ubiquitous advertising and marketing by gambling companies, which was not included in the O'Farrell review mandate.