Proposed Government Amendments to Interactive Gambling Legislation
The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston, today foreshadowed that the Government would bring forward the following amendments to its Interactive Gambling legislation which will be debated during the current sitting fortnight.
The Government will exclude wagering before an event has commenced (including sports betting) from the scope of the interactive gambling ban, with the exception of ball-by-ball or micro-event wagering, which will continue to be prohibited. This will bring the legislation into line with last year’s Internet Gambling Moratorium legislation.
As recommended in the Senate Committee Report, the Government will exclude lotteries and similar activities from the scope of the interactive gambling ban. They do not have the repetitive and addictive characteristics of other forms of gambling and their prohibition would impact disproportionately on the elderly and disabled, and those living in remote Australia.
The Government will prohibit the advertising of interactive gaming services on broadcast media, in print publications, on billboards and on the Internet in order to limit the access of interactive gaming providers to the Australian market, and to limit take-up by Australians. Advertising on Internet sites will be prohibited where those sites are aimed at an Australian audience and contain paid links to Internet gaming sites. The ban will be broadly consistent with the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act 1992.
Foreign gaming operators who provide interactive Judi Mpo Slot gaming services to persons in Australia will be liable for prosecution if they enter Australia, through provisions similar to the Wire Wager Act in the USA. Whilst the amendment will not impose technological blocking measures on the Internet industry, this offence provision will serve as a deterrent to foreign gaming operators.
Reasonable diligence defence
The Government will clarify the reasonable diligence defence to provide more certainty for Australian operators who provide gaming services to offshore customers. The amendments will provide further guidance as to what steps interactive gaming operators should take to ensure that they do not inadvertently offer services to Australians in contravention of the ban.
Television games and trade promotions
Free-to-air and subscription broadcasters have raised concerns that the legislation may operate to unintentionally ban interactive TV games shows or promotions, like “Video Hits” or “Classic Catches” where there is some form of entry fee such as a 1900 phone call. Because these services were not intended to be covered by the legislation, the Government will introduce amendments to exempt these and future services offered in conjunction with material on digital and interactive TV from the scope of the Bill. This exemption will be subject to a Ministerial power to impose further conditions, with a review of this part of the legislation after two years.
Unintended consequences including ‘linked jackpots’
Legal advice has confirmed that the Bill may inadvertently prohibit established off-line gambling services that happen to use communications links, such as TABs and poker machines connected between and possibly within licensed premises. The Government will amend the legislation to clarify that the ban will not apply to these services. The interactive gambling legislation was always intended to prevent the further spread of gambling through new and emerging online technologies which the Productivity Commission identified as having the potential to bring about a ‘quantum increase in accessibility’ to gambling services. The legislation was never intended to wind back existing offline gambling services, which have always been the responsibility of the States and Territories and, in relation to which, the Federal Government does not have any express or direct constitutional powers.
Senator Alston said the Government’s proposed amendments to the Interactive Gambling Bill brought into sharp focus Mr Beazley’s refusal to do anything to prevent an explosion in the accessibility of poker machine and casino like games in the living rooms of Australian families.
“Why are Mr Beazley and the Labor Party in favour of a massive proliferation of the most insidious and social destructive forms of gambling, against the will of the vast majority of Australians?” Senator Alston said.
The Government’s proposed amendments include further action to minimise the opportunities for Australians to access interactive gaming services provided by overseas based operators. Banning the advertising of such services in Australia and extending the offence of providing such services to include foreign operators will act as a strong disincentive, particularly as foreign operators who provide interactive gaming services to Australians will risk prosecution if they enter the country.
The amendments proposed by the Government will address the concerns expressed by the racing industry and the providers of lotteries. In the case of the racing industry, the Government remains concerned about the impact of Internet wagering, but recognises that this concern needs to be balanced against the impact of a ban on a bona fide and long established industry in Australia.
The legislation will not apply to television games such as ‘Video Hits’ or ‘Classic Catches’ that involve the payment of consideration by a player and may have been inadvertently caught up by the ban. However, gaming services will be prohibited on television, and the Minister will retain a reserve power to impose conditions on television games and a review of this part of the legislation will be conducted after two years.
The Government considers that, with these proposed amendments, the Interactive Gambling legislation should be passed by the Senate at the earliest opportunity to protect all Australians from the insidious social impact of interactive gaming.
“While Mr Beazley and the Labor Party have disgracefully wiped their hands of the social consequences of poker machines and casino games, the Government will work with the other parties in the Senate in the best interests of Australian families”, Senator Alston said.