Australia’s video poker (pokie) machine reform legislation could be tabled as early as next week. Whenever the bill appears, the Sydney Morning Herald reports it will receive the “reluctant” backing of Independent MP Andrew Wilkie. Wilkie’s original pokie reform deal with Prime Minister Julia Gillard famously fell through when Gillard realized she no longer needed Wilkie’s support to prop up her ruling party. Earlier this month, Wilkie was publicly musing about taking revenge for Gillard’s political expediency, but now says he has to be “realistic. What’s on the table now, it’s the best we can get.” The legislation faces a tougher slog in the Senate, where anti-everything Senator Nick Xenophon and the Greens party are insisting on a $1 maximum bet limit being part of any proposed reforms. Xenophon calls Gillard’s proposal – which involves a pre-commitment trial limited to the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) – “a plan to do nothing.”
IN-PLAY GOING ONLINE?
In more groundbreaking news, the Daily Telegraph reports it has seen documents claiming Australia’s government has informed the domestic gambling industry that it will introduce measures enabling online in-play sports betting within six to 12 months. In-play betting is currently only allowed via telephone or in person at betting shops, but a regulatory review in Victoria recently described the online ban as serving “no useful purpose.” Preparations are reportedly underway to give domestic online poker a five-year trial, as well. (Australian players have reported receiving notices from sites on the iPoker network, including William Hill, saying they would no longer be able to play on the site effective May 24.)
An April 9 email sent by Merrill Lynch analyst Mark Bryan to clients indicated that the government had discussed the measures at an online gaming symposium attended by Tattersalls, Tabcorp, Jumbo Interactive and other bookmakers. Industry members confirmed the email’s contents, adding that the government’s intention was to “clean up inconsistencies” between domestic and international rules. Communications Minister Stephen Conroy declined comment on the report, saying only that the government was finalizing its review of the 2001 Interactive Gambling Act.
SPORTS ALIVE INQUIRY SHAMES REGULATORS
In his email, Bryan warned that the country’s political climate could end up scuppering the online in-play plans. It probably doesn’t help that the inquiry into the 2011 collapse of online betting firm Sports Alive is raising questions about the competency of the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission. The Canberra Times reports that despite monthly audits by ACT regulators, financial records show Sports Alive had been insolvent at least three years before its ultimate collapse, losing more than $7m over its last five years of operation. Some of the estimated 18k punters who are still owed almost $3.9m from the debacle have complained to the ACT Ombudsman that the regulators failed to enforce rules regarding the segregation of player and company funds. The Ombudsman declined comment on whether these complaints would result in legal action being taken against the Commission.
STAR CASINO HIGH-ROLLER THREATENED RAPE, MURDER
In other Aussie legal action, the Star Casino may have been at least partially exonerated by the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority’s recent inquiry into shenanigans at the Sydney gaming joint, but the Star is now taking ABC television to court for allegedly “inducing” Star staff to provide the broadcaster with confidential info that once again paints the Star in an unflattering light. At issue is an April 16 report in which ABC claimed a high-roller threatened to rape a Star casino female dealer and murder her family if she didn’t let him win – info that Star claims came from confidential internal company reports. The ABC hasn’t taken issue with the nature of the documents, only that it has never “induced” sources to pony up confidential information. Rape, murder… It’s just a click away…