Thou Shalt Not Bet on the Net. . . for a year

The Senate passed a 12 month moratorium on interactive gambling this week, making all commercial online gambling ventures here illegal.

Federal minister for Communications, IT and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston, re-introduced the Interactive Gambling (Moratorium) Bill - once rejected in October - to implement a 12 month ban from May 19 2000 to May 18 2001.

The ban is aimed at stopping the growth of the interactive gambling industry here. A spokesman for Senator Alston said now was an "appropriate time" to conduct a feasability inquiry into the effect of a permanent ban on the industry as the industry was still young here, thus affecting fewer operators.

The Senate is expected to pass amendments to exempt wagering services. As such, services allowing betting on a horserace, harness race, greyhound race or sporting event will not be affected by the moratorium, the Federal agency said.

Services that began by May 19, 2000 will be allowed to continue during the moratorium, Senator Alston's office said.

The Government will also consider States' and Territories' interest in a national regulatory scheme, however the level of protection and timing for that scheme was "uncertain," the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, Australia's online gambling industry is threatening the Government with legal action over the moratorium, citing the risk of losing substantial earnings; that millions of dollars in development costs were at stake, and that infant Internet gambling industries in the States could be destroyed.

While the Bill is yet to be debated in the House of Representatives, it is expected to become law by Christmas.

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