IIA Ups the Ante in the War of the Words

While Senator Alston was counter-attacking Labor's gambling policy yesterday, the Internet Industry Association was increasingly virulent in its condemnation of the government's proposed online gambling ban.

The Communications minister, Senator Richard Alston, yesterday claimed that Labor was absolving itself of the need to ban online gambling and was encouraging the dramatic increase of internet gambling in Australian homes.

"Australian families will be disappointed to hear that Labor's first policy of the year is to put a pokie in every lounge room," Senator Alston said.

According to the Productivity Commission, interactive technologies provide the opportunity for a "quantum leap in accessibility" to gambling services. Alston also said that the Commission found a strong correlation between increased accessibility of gambling services and the incidence of problem gambling.

After assessing a report by the National Office for the Information Economy, Peter Coroneos, director of the Internet Industry Association, said there were substantial flaws in the government's justification for banning online gambling.

Firstly, he said, the Econtech economic impact study that NOIE cited in its economic analysis concludes that a ban may increase social welfare for Australians. Coroneos argued that this would only be true if the assumption that online gambling is inherently worse than offline gambling was accepted.

"We reject that assumption and rely on player protections, which will apply uniformly in Australia if the states and territories are permitted to finish and implement the draft AUS Model, as they are keen to do," said Coroneos. The AUS Model contains player protections and regulatory standards, which are not capable of being implemented offline in the foreseeable future.

Working from the assumption that online gambling is no more harmful than offline gambling, Coroneos said "society is $9 million per annum worse off after a ban on Australian sites".

The IIA argues that well-regulated online sites offer better protection than land-based venues and, using Econtech's own model, Coroneos calculates a "net social benefit in permitting internet gambling in excess of $43 million per annum".

"This social benefit can be applied to treating problem gambling generated by offline establishments. In short, the internet should be seen not as the problem here, but as part of the solution.

"The government doesn't want to impede offline gambling probably because of the votes it would lose."

Courtesy of the Australian Industry Standard - www.thestandard.com.auHEADLINE

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