Australia Seeks Input on I-Gaming Law

3 March 2003

As mandated by law, the Australian Department of Communications Information Technology and Arts is seeking public input to review the Internet Gambling Act that was passed nearly two years ago.

The review was built into the original Act, which currently prohibits Australian residents and operators from accessing one another while each are allowed to seek services and customers based outside of the country.

Last month the Australian Casino Association started a campaign to urge the federal government to remove those restrictions and introduce a regime similar to what was in place prior to the enactment of the Interactive Gaming Act in 2001.

Under the laws introduced in 2001, local cyber casinos must take bets only with foreign gamblers. Those laws were passed at the end of a one-year moratorium on the issuance of new licenses.

Before 2000, Australia was considered by many to be the world's leading jurisdiction for highly regulated, licensed online casinos.

Not everyone in the gaming industry is eager to see the federal government to return Internet gambling laws back to what they were before 2000.

As part of the IGA betting on horseracing was excluded from the Internet ban. With less competition for the betting dollar online in Australia the horseracing industry has leveraged its exemption to increase its market share over the last two years.

The racing industry also successfully lobbied for a clause in the act that prohibited overseas bookmakers from carrying odds for Australian races.

Other groups, namely the Interchurch Gambling Taskforce, said they would push for additional laws to further cut down on the amount of Internet gambling conducted in Australia. John Dalziel, the chairman of the taskforce, said the group would push for amendments that would force banks to refuse credit card transactions from offshore gambling sites.

The IGA was passed in 2001 after local communities expressed concerns about the accessibility of online gambling in Australia, according to a statement released by the DCITA.

Under the act, it is an offense to provide an interactive gaming service to customers in Australia and to advertise such services--including online casino-style services involving games of chance or mixed chance and skill, such as roulette, poker, craps, online poker machines and blackjack. However, services such as telephone betting, wagering (sports and racing), lottery services, certain Corporations Law contracts and services with a designated broadcasting or data casting link are exempted.

The review, required under section 68 of the Act, will assess the effectiveness of the Act in dealing with the social and commercial impact of these services.

The review will consider the current exemptions under the Act and any relevant technological developments. It will also consider matters associated with the enforceability of financial agreements relating to interactive gambling services under section 69A of the Act. Section 69 allows the drafting regulations to render unenforceable agreements that provide for the payment of money for the supply of illegal interactive gambling services.

As part of the DCITA's review process, industry and community groups are asked to submit ideas and suggestions on how the IGA could be improved, ratified or even revoked.

Groups and individuals can submitted their opinions through the mail or electronically but are asked to do so by April 22.