Australian Casinos: 'Regulation Is the Answer'

8 May 2003

For the Australian Casino Association, there is a simple solution to the review of Australia's Internet Gambling Act: regulation.

The ACA submitted its recommendations to the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts as part of the mandatory review of the act.

The association, Australia's largest trade group for the casino industry, recommends that Australia return to the days of strict regulations for online gaming operators and players instead of trying to prohibit the industry.

"The association remains in the view that regulations continues to offer more effective means of managing problem gambling then the partial introduction by the IGA," the report says.

The report also touches on the fact that consumer demand for online gaming continues to be high and that blocking credit card transactions as a way to monitor the industry is both "unrealistic and unenforceable."

Despite being at the forefront of Internet gambling regulation during the late 1990s, the Australian government opted for a more restrictive approach to the industry two years ago.

The IGA makes it an offense to provide certain interactive gambling services to customers physically located in Australia. This offense, which carries a maximum penalty of $220,000 per day for individuals and $1.1 million per day for corporations, applies to all interactive gambling service providers, whether based in Australia or offshore, whether Australian or foreign owned.

The IGA also makes it an offense to advertise interactive gambling services in Australia. The advertising prohibition under the IGA extends to all forms of media, both electronic and non-electronic, including advertising via the Internet, broadcast services, print media, billboards and hoardings, subject to certain exceptions.

Through the framework established in the act, the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) administers a complaints scheme under which Australian residents or companies trading in Australia are able to complain to the ABA if they believe that Australians can access prohibited Internet gambling content. The ABA is required to investigate the complaint and refer Australian-hosted prohibited Internet gambling content to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) or a state or territory police force if it considers the complaint should be so referred.

If the prohibited Internet gambling content is hosted overseas, the ABA is required to notify the makers of filters listed in Schedule 1 to the Interactive Gambling Industry Code.

The code was developed by the Internet Industry Association, as required by the IGA, and deals specifically with the issue of overseas sourced material. The code requires Internet service providers to provide their customers with one of the approved filters listed in Schedule 1 of the code.

The ABA may also refer overseas-hosted prohibited Internet gambling content to the AFP or a state or territory police force where they believe the material is hosted in a country of interest to that police force.

While the IGA currently makes it an offense only to provide interactive gambling services to people in Australia, the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts can, under the act, widen the offense to include the provision of such services to people in a "designated country."

This requires the government of that country to request a designation from the minister, and for that country to have in force legislation that corresponds with the main offense provisions of the IGA. No foreign country has been designated under this provision to date.

In its submission, the ACA suggests that while other jurisdictions modeled their interactive gaming regulations after Australia in the late 1990s, the Australian government should now look at other countries and take heed of their approaches.

"Some countries have announced or adopted proactive policies, two notable examples being the United Kingdom and Ireland," the report states. "The United Kingdom is soon to release a detailed regulatory framework for the regulation of interactive gaming. Overall, the most important development relevant to this review has been the emergence of regulation over prohibition as the preferred policy position."

Click here to read the full ACA submission.

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