Cat Amongst The Cybergambling Pigeons Downunder!

5 May 1998

Professor Jan McMillen of the Australian Institute of Gambling Research has really put the cat amongst the cybergambling pigeons this week when she said in an interview with the Australian newspaper that the Australian Federal Government " was shirking its constitutional responsibility, hoping States and the gambling industry would solve the potential legal problems associated with cyber gambling".

"If we're going to have an effective regulatory regime, we absolutely must have the support and involvement of the Federal Government," she said. "Given telecommunication, banking and external affairs powers were defined in the Constitution as the domain of the (Australian) Commonwealth", Professor McMillen said "Canberra had no choice, but to join the debate on legislative control of such gambling".

This comes just days after the Australian Federal Government announced a national inquiry into all aspects of the gambling industry in Australia. The growth in gambling in Australia which has doubled from AUD 40 billion handle to 80 billion handle in 5 or so years is not meeting with approval at the highest political levels down under. The Australian Prime Minister has expressed concern at the growth in gambling and has stated he is against any more gambling.

Up until now the Australian state governments have had the running on the cybergambling issue and most of the states seemed to have agreed on creating a cybergambling industry with co-ordinated and complementary state legislation. The first state to move was Queensland who just weeks ago brought down an Interactive gambling law. The state of Western Australia has announced it will not be coming to the party and has opted out of the national approach. The States of Victoria and Northern Territory are rumored to be on the verge of introducing legislation while the rest are still mulling the issue over.

South Australian Member of Parliament Nick Xenophon (who was elected on a no more gambling platform) has called for Cybergambling to be "nipped in the bud"! Meanwhile down in the state of Victoria the newspaper of record, The Age lead this week with a story titled "Why Victoria is a Corrupt, Addicted Gambling State" Written by the Age's Kenneth Davidson who is based in the Federal Capital Canberra, the story included this harsh paragraph;

"Much effort goes into finding franchisees who are acceptable to Government and society. Yet given the nature of the relationship, it would be better if the Government issued its gambling licenses to a foreign Mafia so that the underlying sickness of the relationship (which is completely unrelated to illegality) is more clearly exposed."

This savaging of the gambling industry has not come out of the blue, there has been growing criticism largely caused by new casinos and the proliferation of slot machines in bars in the last few years, but the harshness of the attacks is far greater than anything seen since the very early days of the Australian gambling industry's modern forms in the 1950's, a time when Australia was a far more socially conservative country.

Unfortunately for the cybergambling industry this recent explosion of criticism, now coming at the gambling industry from all directions, could disrupt the national approach to have coordinated laws. If this comes to pass because of a general unease about the growth of gambling, then it may be a major setback for legalized nambling world wide.

Professor Jan McMillen said "If we're going to have an effective regulatory regime, we absolutely must have the support and involvement of the Federal Government." "We've got to get this right because we're only going to be given one opportunity."

This seems to indicate that Prof. McMillen is not anti cybergambling but rather concerned with a disjointed and piece meal approach that may not protect "the growing number of people gambling in cyberspace". The problem is for the nascent cybergambling industry in Australia is that this would move control of cybergambling from the pro gambling and gambling revenue hungry states to a Federal one who is on record as not wanting to see gambling expand beyond it's current level. A government who would like "to put a cap on the growth [of gambling]", in the words of the Prime Minister John Howard only last week.

IGN understands that Prof. McMillen will be presenting a paper at the Gambling, Technology and Society conference starting in Sydney on Thursday which outlines her views that the Federal powers over Telecommunications, Banking and External Affairs (deals with other countries), means there is no alternative to Federal Government involvement with cybergambling. If the state regulators don't get her first, IGN will try to get a copy of the paper.

IGN's Mr.Nambling is a gaming industry consultant and commentator with over 23 years industry experience, Glenn Barry has held senior management positions in Lottery and gaming operations around the world. His claims to fame include starting the first successful US Lotto in NewYork in 1978 and the NSW (Australia) in 1979.