Effort to Ban Online Gaming Down Under Rears Its Head. . . Again

5 December 2000
As the Australian parliament counts down the last few days of its current sitting, a frenzied effort to get the Internet gambling moratorium bill passed ensues. The results of this week's efforts could be imperative to both the moratorium's future as well as that of interactive gambling.

Earlier this year the moratorium failed to pass after ending in a tie vote. This time around Green Senator Bob Brown's support of the moratorium may be key to its passage. With his shift in support, some experts believe the moratorium is likely to succeed, shifting the balance of power to favor the moratorium.

Brown's support for the latest moratorium bid was conditional upon whether Internet sports wagering were allowed in Victoria and Tasmania. An amendment to the bill that exempted horse racing, harness racing, greyhound racing and sports events, as well as expanding online betting to TABs in Tasmania, Western Australia and Victoria, was passed during a Senate vote last night, AAP reported.

A spirited debate accompanied the vote. Senator Kate Lundy lashed out at the moratorium, saying "This bill is about regulating Internet content. It's about making something illegal online that is legal online."

Adding her voice in opposition to the moratorium was Senator Natasha Stott Despoja, who argued that the state and territorial governments should have greater input on any legislation, as they are the one's with the greater experience. "While we have wide-ranging concerns about the current operations online and land-based gambling operations, we recognize that a ban in not the answer," she added.

The Internet Industry Association has long been opposed to the moratorium. "The IIA maintains its strong opposition to a total ban on internet gambling sites, a spectre which has been raised by the government several times," the IIA's most recent newsletter said. "We are worried about a ban's impact on e-commerce, internet access charges, the loss of skills and technologies and other collateral damage, and recent information suggests that enforcement would be imposed on ISPs (to block sites) or banks (to invalidate transactions). Neither in our view is acceptable, with the former likely to push up the cost of access and the latter striking at the heart of e-commerce."

There is still a chance that the moratorium could fail to pass. "If this legislation doesn't go through in those four days [left in the Senate's sitting], that's for the moratorium, then the government is unlikely to bring back on legislation for a moratorium in February that's only going to last until May," Senator Brown said Monday during a radio interview. No doubt the current and future operators in Australia are hoping the moratorium fails once again.

The 12-month moratorium would be effective from May 19, and prevent any new Australian gaming sites from launching.