Australian Democrats Deputy Leader Senator Natasha Stott Despoja has informed the handful of online gambling license holders in Australia who've spent the last few days packing their bags for the likes of Vanuatu, Kahnawake and Malta that they might want to put their relocation plans on hold.
During the past six months' battle between the states and the federal government, Australia's third political party, the Democrats, have reserved tipping the scale either way with their support. That is, until today, when Senator Stott Despoja announced during a press conference at the Crown Towers hotel in Melbourne that the Democrats, which hold the balance of power in this issue, are in favor of doing away with the 12-month moratorium proposed by the federal government in May. Instead, they support a three-month "non-retrospective moratorium" to enable the states to establish a minimum uniform set of national regulatory principles for Net betting in Australia. The moratorium will be effective to all new licenses from the commencement of the moratorium and existing licenses upon renewal and will be effective to all gaming and wagering services.
"The (12-month moratorium) bill does not protect Australians from a casino in every lounge room and it does not address the real issue of problem gambling," Senator Stott Despoja explained. "The government has once again failed to understand how the Internet works. . . . The government's objective is to investigate the feasibility of a ban on Australian Internet gambling. The online services debate and the Senate 'NetBets' inquiry has shown that a ban is not effective.
"The government's approach to Internet gambling will not protect Australians, but it does provide an opportunity to address a social issue pressing to the Australian community."
Senator Stott Despoja added that if the states don't reach an agreement regarding an approach toward regulation within the moratorium period, the Federal Minister may enforce what is deemed a minimum uniform set of principles by the majority of the states. The agreement, says Stott Despoja, should include a national public education campaign on the Australian regulation and harm minimization of Internet gambling.
The Stott Despoja proposal was informally announced (and supported) by the Internet Industry Association yesterday at an online gaming forum being held at the hotel, although the origin of the proposal was not disclosed at the time.
Today's announcement was great news for the several operators whose recently acquired licenses were threatened by the 12 month moratorium, which was retroactive to May 19.
The Senator was unavailable to answer questions following the announcement because a known stalker of hers was sighted in the building.