Gambling inquiry full of problems

If the government bans Internet gambling, regulated gaming sites will be stamped out and unregulated sites will prosper, says online gaming executive David Ohlson.

Following the prime minister's announcement last week that the government would be "investigating the feasibility and consequences of banning internet gambling", Ohlson, the executive director of online gaming company Lasseters Online said existing technology could only enable the government to stamp out regulated online gaming sites - sites operating within state government casino regulations and monitored by the state.

The government announcement follows a Productivity Commission report claiming around 290,000 Australians are problem gamblers. The report said Australian problem gamblers spent more than $3 billion annually.

"If the government passes a legislation to ban it (online gaming), they could only stop companies like Lasseters - the regulated ones," Ohlson said.

Ohlson believes Lasseters was the only regulated online gaming site in the world, but said there were around 400 unregulated sites.

"In some third world countries, you get people paying a hundred thousand dollars for a brown paper bag called a licence, but the government isn't monitoring their operations," he said.

Ohlson said many unregulated online gaming sites operated offshore, and that, consequently, the government would not be able to monitor Australian patronage of these sites.

"Overseas is only a mouse click away," he said.

Ohlson said only two per cent of cash bets submitted to Lasseters Online came from Australia. The other 98 per cent came from 258 overseas countries, he said.

He said banning online gaming sites would encourage Australians to visit unregulated offshore gaming sites. If gamblers knew gaming sites were government regulated, they would be more likely to visit those sites, he said.

"If the government says 'you're not allowed to operate', then we don't operate. But the other 400 online casinos continue to operate."

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