Australian online gamers face punitive fines

Fines of up to A$1.1 million (US$539,000) a day will be levied on companies providing online gambling services in Australia to Australian residents under legislation introduced in the Australian Senate Friday.

The Interactive Gambling Bill 2001 also sets out a monitoring scheme that will put the onus on Internet service providers to come up with an industry code of conduct for complying with complaints about offending content. If the code developed by the industry fails to meet government requirements, the Australian Broadcasting Authority will be given the power to create a code of conduct for the industry.

Individuals who breach the legislation could be fined up to A$220,000 for each day of the transgression.

Debate on the bill was adjourned and its appearance in the Senate on the last sitting day of the current session means it cannot be voted on before the current moratorium on interactive gambling expires next month. Parliament will resume on May 22, three days after the moratorium is due to expire.

As with the moratorium bill last year, the new bill's fate will probably hang on the votes of four or five senators from minor parties. A major lobbying effort has been bombarding senatorial websites with email for the past week. Vested interest groups were competing for attention with little evidence of a coordinated effort, according to one senatorial advisor.

The crucial group of senators being wooed from all sides includes Greens Senator Bob Brown and Australian Democrats Senators John Woodley and Lyn Allison. It also includes Independent Senator Brian Harradine and two others who might turn out to be decisive, Western Australia Senator Andrew Murray and New South Wales Senator Aden Ridgeway, both of whom abstained on the moratorium bill.

One vital difference between the moratorium bill and the ban is the ban's inclusion of wagering, which may cause some, in particular Tasmania's Senator Brown, to rethink their stance.

Story courtesy of The Industry Standard Australia (http://www.thestandard.com.au).

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