Monday April 1, 2013 : AUSSIE POLITICIANS QUESTION LEGALITY OF GAMBLING APP
But Apple declines to comment
Several Australian politicians well-known for their anti-online gambling views questioned the legality of Apple's poker app over the weekend, calling for a federal government clamp down on overseas gambling operators.
At the centre of their criticism was the Apple app featuring Pokerstars, which reportedly permits Australians to download and gamble on mobile devices for real money.
Senator Richard Di Natale told the WA Today newspaper that he wants the federal government to clamp down on overseas gambling operators.
"We don't allow online poker in Australia for Australian people under the Interactive Gambling Act … they [Apple] have got an obligation to take down apps that are against Australian law and they should do it," said the senator, who is a member of the gambling reform committee.
The newspaper reports that it was able to download the Pokerstars app from the Australian iTunes app store, deposit real money and join cash tables. Approached for comment, Apple declined to do so.
In March 2013 the federal government released a Productivity Commission review of the ten-year-old Interactive Gambling Act, claiming that there could be as many as 2,200 online gambling providers based mainly offshore and illegally offering services to Australians, who lose an estimated $1 billion per annum on online gambling services that are not licensed in Australia.
The review found that existing regulations were inadequate and recommended legislative changes to enable and encourage currently prohibited online gaming sites to become licensed and regulated.
However, the Gillard government rejected this recommendation.
WA Today points out that Pokerstars has an Australian office and local bank accounts.
Senator Nick Xenophon told the newspaper that he is also against online gambling services that allow Australians to pay real money for virtual currency which is then gambled but cannot be cashed out, which he claimed "habituates gambling".
He called on government to close this "legal loophole".
The WA Today report also targeted the Perth-based internet start-up Chumba Casino, which exploits the social gambling sector on Facebook . The venture recently raised A$2.5 million in venture capital funding.
Founder Laurence Escalante said: "We ‘gamify' gambling to make it fun, accessible and safe. Prohibition simply doesn't work, and enforcing it in practical terms is difficult, if not impossible."
Andrew Wilkie, another Australian politician with strong anti-online gambling views, said that rather than allowing online gambling sites to be licensed in Australia the government should tighten the rules further and "…put in place strategies to deter Australians from accessing dangerous offshore sites".