The federal government in Australia, egged on by the established traditional Aussie gambling groups and a review conducted in 2015 review by former NSW premier Barry O’Farrell, has been threatening to tighten up on the Australian online gambling industry, which in recent years has seen an influx of foreign-owned online betting companies, and on Thursday it took the first steps.
Communications Minister Mitch Fifield introduced the Interactive Gambling Amendment bill 2016, which among other things addresses the in-play “click to call” workaround deployed by the betting companies (see previous reports).
Supporting the minister, Alan Tudge, minister for Human Services, observed:
“Currently hundreds of illegal gambling services are easily accessible on the internet and we know that people are more likely to get into trouble online – 2.7 percent of interactive gamblers are problem gamblers compared to 0.9 percent of all gamblers.
“We expect online wagering providers to meet community expectations. The tougher laws will seriously disrupt illegal offshore providers from acting unscrupulously or targeting vulnerable Australians.
“The government is committed to taking tougher action against illegal offshore wagering providers and this bill does exactly that.
“The combination of clearer legislation, stronger enforcement measures and awareness-raising activities will assist to ensure Australians are protected from these illegal gambling services,”
The new bill gives the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) power to issue warnings, infringement notices, civil penalties and injunctions. The body will additionally be authorised to disclose details about prohibited gambling services to international regulators, and handle player complaints.
The bill also confirms that only people or companies who hold a licence in Australia can offer betting products to Australians.
At this stage it is unclear whether Labor or crossbench senators will support the bill to allow it to pass the Senate, according to local political observers.
In his 2015 review of the Interactive Gambling Act, O’Farrell estimated that up to A$400 million was being spent on illegal offshore wagering by Australians.
In April this year the federal government accepted 18 of the 19 recommendations that O’Farrell made regarding amendments to the Interactive Gambling Act (see previous reports)..