Despite signs that efforts to ban online gaming in Australia were weakening, the move is closer to reality than many had thought just weeks ago.
While industry leaders were trying to hedge off efforts by the government, sources in Australia today report that legislation for a yearlong moratorium on online gaming will be sent back to the Senate by the end of next week.
The Australian Broadcasting Association said a government source confirmed that the bill would be reintroduced nearly two months after it fell one vote shy of being enacted. ABC also reported that Bob Brown, a Senator from the Green Party who voted against the ban in October, may swing his vote for the bill, giving it the one needed vote to pass. A previous effort at enforcing a moratorium on interactive gambling failed on Oct. 9 in the Australian Senate.
The move to reintroduce the bill comes just weeks after the Australian Casino Association purposed a new code of practice for online gaming operators in what many felt was a compromise that could have staved off a move toward the moratorium.
It is unclear if the new bill would be the same as the one put up for vote in October, but sports and race wagering sites would probably not be included in the new version, one possible reason for Brown to change his vote.
Many feared the 10-month effort to pass the bill would eventually lead to an outright ban of interactive gambling Down Under. One Nation Senator Len Harris indicated that the fresh moratorium efforts wouldn't include wagering services, a move that would allow TABs to offer Internet betting, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Additionally, Harris said that sites already possessing a license before May 19 would be allowed to launch their sites. Both of these topics had been hotly debated issues during previous moratorium efforts.
The process began last December when Prime Minister John Howard suggested that a moratorium on interactive gambling be considered. His suggestions received a boost when the Netbets report was released in March.
The 110-page report from the Australian Senate Select Committee on Information Technologies recommended that no new licenses be issued until several new policies were implemented. Such policies included a ban on credit card betting, tighter privacy provisions, limitations on advertising and stricter measures for preventing money laundering. While the Netbets report itself recommended a harm minimization approach instead of prohibition, Senator Brian Harradine and Liberal John Tierney, in a supplementary report to Netbets, suggested that a five-year moratorium should be imposed.
The ACA’s new code of conduct addressed many of the issues brought up in the Netbets report. The code was due to be released to the public once the draft was finalized, a move that hasn’t occurred yet.