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Australian committee rejects Xenophon bill

TAGs: Andrew Wilkie, Nick Xenophon

Nick Xenophon

Nick, are those tears?

Australians will continue to enjoy unfettered access to international online gambling sites after a parliament inquiry rejected plans to prevent citizens accessing the sites. Anti-gambling legionnaire Nick Xenophon’s bill looked to crackdown on online gambling by banning live betting on sport, banning advertising at certain times and cancelling transactions with international gambling industry sites. The Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform, they said nay.

The committee responded to the plans, stating: “Electronic transactions involving multiple parties are conducted in a matter of seconds, making a request to suspend or cancel them unfeasible.

“The committee majority also has concerns about the inherent element of moral hazard. Allowing gamblers to bet large amounts of money, knowing that if they lose they can request a reversal of the transaction, may well lead to greater risk-taking and more reckless gambling behaviour.”

Xenophon wasn’t the only one to get rejected.

An alternative proposal to create a blacklist of “illegal gambling merchants” was rejected out of hand by the committee. It was put forward by Australian Bankers’ Association chief executive Steven Munchenberg and would have seen financial institutions block transactions from a blacklist provided by the government. They commented that the system “would never be completely effective” in deterring customers from using sites as users “most determined to circumvent the system” would always find a way. In a damning closing repost the committee stated: “We do not support the introduction of any form of financial transactions or payment controls. We recommend (Xenophon’s) bill not be passed.”

Gambling industry opponents are still clinging on for dear life despite this setback. Xenophon is thinking that a change to his bill to include the Blacklist is the way forward with fellow gambling foe, Andrew Wilkie, stating: “Measures to block payments to overseas websites would be likely to steer most people towards the safer, well-regulated domestic sites.”

Banning payments to certain sites won’t be that effective with sites still in a position to steer customers to payment processors to circumvent the ban. Just look at the Black Friday case to see how effective it was at stopping people doing what they want to do – in that case playing online poker. In the US one party that lost was the players who are still waiting for their money to come back. While we aren’t suggesting it would definitely happen if Australia were to pursue a similar route, it’s always possible.

On the same day, three coalition members announced they’d be reporting on their gambling industry report in February. MPs Josh Frydenberg and Steven Ciobo and Senator Chris Back launched a policy discussion paper and public consultation on gambling reform last month and stated: “The Coalition will complete this process before reaching a final position on any changes to current laws.

“It is expected the working group will report back to the Leader of the Opposition by the end of February.”

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