Could the Australian government offer online gambling as a way to protect its citizens?
That’s the conclusion of a new study by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. In its Review of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001, the agency recommended the implementation of a regulatory framework that includes making online poker tournaments legal as a means of consumer protection.
The IGA allows for sports betting and lotteries, but all other forms of internet gambling, including online poker, are prohibited. The DBCDE study concluded that Australians could be at risk because the IGA lacks the necessary mechanisms to control illegal gambling.
“IGA may in fact be exacerbating the risk of harm because of the high level of usage by Australians of prohibited services,” the review concluded.
The government’s recommended solution to the problem is to establish comprehensive gambling regulations that include online poker but prohibit “higher-risk types of online gambling” such as slot machine games. Senator Stephen Conroy, Minister of the DBCDE, called for “a consistent approach to online gambling regulation across all Australian states and territories.”
Conroy outlined a national standard that would set the use of credit for making bets, impose limits on inducements offered by gaming operators and include the mandatory imposition of self-imposed loss limits. Greater enforcement measures against unlicensed operators would also be part of the plan. Until such regulations are in place, Conroy said “the government will not be pursuing the recommended changes relating to the trial of online tournament poker or ‘in-play’ sports wagering.”
But not all members of Parliament were behind the plan. Parliament member and gaming opponent Andrew Wilkie believes the very premise of the report is flawed. “The best response is not to liberalize the Australian market, but rather to tighten it up and put in place strategies to deter Australians from accessing the dangerous offshore sites,” Wilkie said.
State governments would have to agree on a consistent set of gambling policies before federal regulations could be enacted.