Editorial: Boys Will Be Boys

13 May 2003

Growing up as the youngest of three boys I learned quickly the value of passing the buck.

As the baby of the family, it was easy for me to blame things I did on my older brothers by just telling my parents they told me to do it. When we were charged with hashing out a resolution to a problem it was equally as easy to sit back and let them figure out how to solve the problem; after all, they were my older brothers.

As the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts in Australia undergoes its mandatory review of the Internet Gambling Act (IGA), I can't help but hearken back to my youthful days.

It seems that all of the 40 groups and organizations that submitted ideas on how to better effectively regulate online gaming in Australia want someone else to institute a plan or pay for the cost associated with regulating the industry.

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 Interactive Gambling Act 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.

In passing the IGA, policymakers said a full review of the act would take place after two years to determine whether it was effective.

Like their counterparts in many other parts of the world, Australian regulators are struggling with how to effectively regulate online gaming without compromising the safety of players and increasing the amount of problem gamblers in society. Of the 40 submission posted on the DCITA's Web site, nearly all articulate some plan to deal with the industry.

But just as it was in a household with three growing boys, most want someone else to take the responsibility of policing the industry.

The horseracing industry wants to keep its exclusion; the banking industry thinks credit card companies should carry the load of enforcement; banks think credit cards companies should; bookmaking officials think credit card companies should; and Betfair just wants to be licensed so they can do business on the up-and-up.

Of course, many other companies, government regulators, educators and trade associations contributed submissions, but all center on three basic themes: problem gambling, credit card transactions and either expanding or further restricting online.

As part of the review process, the DCITA will pull together all of its submissions and file a formal report later this year. The IGA could be repealed, it could be expanded to prohibit other forms of gambling or Australia could revert back to its pre-IGA days and fully regulate the industry.

Like the busy mother, officials at the DCITA must feel like they are getting pulled in different directions by those who submitted reports.

Unfortunately for proponents of I-gaming not one company, trade group or individual has stood up and suggested a viable plan for Australia in which those making the recommendations are willing to shoulder the responsibility. No one has said, "You should do X,Y, and Z, and we'll help absorb the cost associated with implementing that."

Instead they want to see the procedures in place that will benefit them the most but cost them the least by making someone else foot the bill.

The real message this sends to the DCITA is one of a fragmented industry where the right hand not only doesn't know what the left is doing, but as soon as it finds out either wants it to stop or wants to join in.

As children grow into adulthood, oftentimes they grow closer and can resolve their differences in a more equitable way. Supporters of the I-gaming industry can only hope that this maturation process happens sooner rather than later for the sake of everyone involved.

I'll have to ask my big brother what he thinks of that.

Nobody knows where Kevin Smith came from. He simply showed up one day and started writing articles for IGN. We liked him, so we decided to keep him. We think you'll like him too. Kevin can be reached at kevin@igamingnews.com.