The Federal Government has announced plans to implement new online gambling protection measures following a final report (PDF) into the Interactive Gambling Act (IGA).
Communications minister Stephen Conroy said the Federal Government will work with states and territories to put the plan in place.
The final report made 32 recommendations, including that a national approach should be taken to ensure there were minimum standards in regards to harm minimisation and consumer protection measures.
A national approach would also reduce the risk of competition between states and territories to attract online gambling companies on the basis of ‘less onerous regulation’, the report stated.
“As recommended by this report, the Federal Government will seek the commitment of the states and territories to develop and implement a national standard for harm minimisation and consumer protection that covers all licensed online gambling activities,” Conroy said in a statement.
“I have written to state and territory gambling ministers to seek their commitment to the development and implementation of a national standard and to seek their views on the other recommendations made in the report.”
The report recommended a joint working party be developed comprising Commonwealth, states/territories, industry, gambling researchers and responsible gambling bodies.
It also recommended the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) be responsible for administering civil penalties for illegal gambling services hosted in Australia and that ISPs and security software vendors be consulted on establishing a standard Web page warning which alerts users when they are accessing unlicensed online gambling sites.
New measures the federal government plans to introduce include making it mandatory for users to set their own deposit limits; stricter rules around lines of credit; and limiting the types of inducements offered by online gambling providers, such as limiting the payment of commissions to third parties that encourage people to open new online gambling accounts.
Independent MP's Nick Xenophon and Andrew Wilkie have slammed the government's response and called it a “cop out”.
Xenophon said the Federal Government should tighten consumer access to overseas sites and is disregarding the Commonwealth's ability to intervene now and fix “loopholes in the legislation.
“Instead, it has adopted a fence-sitting approach of waiting for the states and territories to come on board – that’s a recipe for delay and inaction,” Xenophon said in a statement.
Wilkie has also criticsed the government's response and stated reforms need to be carried out at a federal level.
“To pass them off to the states and territories is a remarkable abandonment by the Federal Government of its responsibility to safeguard the public interest,” he said.
“Previously I have indicated that the best response to the proliferation of overseas-based online gaming sites is to allow Australian operators to offer limited gaming options with safeguards.
“But having seen more evidence and taken more advice I’ve decided that the best response is not to liberalise the Australian market, but rather to tighten it up and put in place strategies to deter Australians from accessing the dangerous offshore sites.”
Conroy said the government will not pursue changes to online poker tournaments and in-play sports betting, such as betting on an event’s final result; betting on particular situations, such as who will score the next goal; and micro-betting, which includes betting on the next point in tennis.
The final report recommended micro-betting should be prohibited online and at physical outlets.
“A nationally consistent approach to harm minimisation and consumer protection needs to be agreed before those recommendations are given further consideration,” Conroy said.
“The review also identified concerns in relation to casino-style gambling simulations being accessed through a variety of platforms including social media, and the potential risk that this may pose to children.
“I will be writing to the providers of these games and social networking services to seek more information about how they are addressing these issues.”
An interim report into the IGA in May last year delivered a damning assessment of the Act’s ability to minimise harm from problem gambling and deter Australians’ access to foreign online gambling services.
Australian gambling service providers welcomed the recommendations of the interim report, stating it could usher in online poker tournaments and online in-the-run betting.
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