Memo to Sen Alston: Thanks, Mate, based on the English Channel island of Alderney, says its online gaming business will benefit if the proposed legislation is passed. At the same time, it has just bought Australia's largest private bookmaker, The Number One Betting Shop, for a multimillion-dollar combination of cash and shares.

Despite the threatened ban, it is pushing ahead with plans to repatriate The Betting Shop's operations to Australia from its current base in Vanuatu.

Contacted in the UK, financial director Nigel Payne said the legislation could only serve to increase's online gaming business. "If Australians can't bet with Australian companies, they are going to look for somebody else and we have a legal business in England. It is surprising the government is going down this path because it seems self-defeating for the Australian economy."

Nor would passage of the law derail's plans to relocate The Betting Shop's telephone call centre to Australia, Payne said.

Last year, The Betting Shop turned over $525 million, a figure said to exceed the combined revenues of all NSW bookmakers. is known to be negotiating with the ACT and is reportedly also talking with Queensland and NSW to set up a phone betting call centre back on Australian soil. "We have had a positive response from more than one state and we are in the process of deciding which we would go to," said Payne.

Privately, he believes the Howard Government has bitten off more than it can chew with its proposed legislation. The decision to outlaw online wagering on sporting and racing events will add the lobbying muscle of TAB organisations to the opposition camp. When the issue comes up for a crucial Senate vote sometime in the next month and a half, that may be enough to tip the margin against the government. "Based on our sources of information, the bottom line is that we think this legislation is extremely unlikely to pass," said Payne.

If the proposed ban does get up, will insulate itself by conducting online gambling only from its English Channel site. It will limit its Australian activity to phone betting, which will still be legal under the proposed legislation.

The reason for repatriating The Betting Shop's call centre from Vanuatu to Australia has to do with people, not technology, Payne said. "We need Asian language skills for handling call centre services to Asian customers. It is extremely easy to find those skills in Australia but not so straightforward in Vanuatu."

Courtesy The Industry Standard Australia:

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