Australia has decided not to open up its online gambling sector beyond traditional sports betting, disappointing gamblers who expected the government to approve online poker and in-play wagering. On Tuesday, the Aussie government will deliver its final report on the lengthy review of the 2001 Interactive Gambling Act (IGA), but Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has already announced that the government won’t consider any expansion of online betting options until it has established national harm-minimization and consumer protection guidelines.
While the government’s review reportedly makes 30 recommendations, they’re all apparently on hold until those harm minimization standards can be worked out. These could include pre-commitment technology similar to the type proposed for the nation’s video poker (pokies) machines, plus targeted messages warning punters when their online betting behaviour indicates signs of gambling addiction. Conroy says the government has already written to state and territory governments to start work on harmonizing laws. The government is reportedly keen on avoiding a hodgepodge of differing state regulations that would allow operators to play one state off the other.
The Age reported that some of the other recommendations include continuing the ban on online in-play betting and even extending the ban to physical betting outlets. Despite an interim report last May that suggested a five-year trial of online poker tournaments wouldn’t prevent the sun from rising in the east, it ain’t gonna happen. Online casino games will also remain verboten.
Other recommendations include tightening restrictions on online credit and minimizing payments to online gambling affiliates. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) should be given the responsibility for levying fines on unlicensed international operators and internet service providers would be consulted on creating a common web page warning alerting users when they attempt to access unlicensed sites. The media has been tasked with developing a standard for minimizing the number of odds references during sports broadcasts.
After the length of time the IGA has been under review, the subsequent lack of concrete action in either direction has both pro- and anti-gambling factions crying ‘cop-out’. The gambling companies are angry that the interim review recommendations re online poker and in-play betting have been ignored. Perennial anti-gambling scold and occasional Senator Nick Xenophon expressed his bog-standard anger that more curbs on lawful sports betting weren’t being planned. And the can gets kicked a little further down the road…