Defiant Aussie States Issue More Licenses

22 May 2000
With a federal moratorium on the issuing of new interactive gaming licenses looming in Australia, a few of the states and territories seem to be eager to hand out as many as possible while they still can. In particular, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territories have issued several licenses in the past two weeks.

Tabcorp Holdings, Australia's largest casino company, has for months mulled the prospect of taking the brand of its Sydney-based Star City Casino to the Internet. The plan took a giant step forward when the company's Tabcorp Online Pty. Ltd. subsidiary received its online gaming license from Tasmania last Tuesday--just days before the licensing moratorium was announced.

On Monday, Tasmania awarded a license to Kerry Packer's Publishing & Broadcasting Ltd., which plans to operate an Internet casino through its online offshoot, Ecorp Ltd. The PBL casino will focus on the international market.

Tasmania previously issued licenses to Federal Hotels, Tattersalls and IQ Corporation, a WAP fixed-odds betting service. A sixth applicant, Global Best Bets Pty Ltd, has been issued a "Notice Of Intent to Licence."

Last week, the Australian Capital Territories announced that it had given licenses to Tattersalls and the ACT TAB. More licensing announcements may be forthcoming, as the government is processing up to 10 more license applications.

It's still unclear whether the recent flood of licenses granted will be legally recognized. Federal authorities have said that once the moratorium becomes law, it will be grandfathered back to last week's announcement.

Tasmanian government officials are unlikely to brook interference, however. "They'll be in for the biggest barney with the Tasmanian Government that you can imagine," Tasmania's Gaming Minister Paul Lennon said during a radio interview, "because I don't think that the Tasmanian public will stand for a Federal Minister, such as Senator (Jocelyn) Newman, standing by and allowing Tasmania to miss out on $200 million of investment and the jobs that go with it when she knows that all they will do is go to another jurisdiction and set up exactly the same operation that they planned to set up here."

ACT officials don't believe there is any legislation to follow, anyway. "The Feds have not put pen to paper to draft any legislation," Vicki Dunne, an advisor of ACT Attorney General Gary Humphries, told ZDNet Australia.

Nearly every state and territorial government, with the exception of Western Australia and New South Wales, has responded defiantly to the moratorium.