The Federal government's plans to impose a 12-month moratorium on internet gambling services has not deterred some states and territories from continuing the push for online gaming.
Despite the moratorium, which if imposed would be effective from May 19, 2000 (retrospectively) through to May 19, 2001, the Tasmanian government yesterday issued a "Notice of Intention to License" for an online gaming licence to Gocorp.
The "Notice" means Gocorp has received approval to be granted a licence but can exercise that licence whenever it chooses.
Norfolk Island is also understood to have several applications for licences currently under review.
According to sources close to Gocorp, the company plans to determine how it will use the Tasmanian licence over the coming months. Gocorp already holds a Queensland online gaming licence and started operating its first cyber casino on May 16, just three days before the Commonwealth's retrospective ban on services will be imposed if it goes ahead.
The Tasmanian licence has obvious benefits for Gocorp with its 4 per cent tax rate for overseas players and a sliding tax rate ranging between 15 and 20 per cent for Australian players. Gocorp is currently subject to Queensland legislation, which enforces a 50 per cent tax rate for both Australian and international players.
It is understood that Queensland is reviewing its tax rate in order to be more in line with other states and territories that offer online gaming.
Terry O'Connor, spokesman for the Minister for Communications, the Arts and Information Technology, had little to say regarding the newly issued licence.
"We don't issue licences. If Tasmania wants to issue a licence they can, " he said. "The moratorium is on new services . . . the states and territories can issues as many licences as they like, but it doesn't mean (the operators) will be able to offer services."
O'Connor was confident the government would pass the legislation before the May 19 deadline next year, when the moratorium is due to expire.
The government is examining the legislation, which is still in the drafting stage, he said. "We have made it clear to the states and territories that we want their input -- it's a social issue," he said.
Meanwhile, Geoff Gardner, the Norfolk Island minister responsible for gaming, was less confident in the Commonwealth's ability to pass the legislation.
"Indeed the moratorium may have expired by the time they get the legislation through . . . there's every chance this may happen," he said.
According to Gardner, despite the proposed moratorium, the Norfolk Island government is actively continuing to pursue online gaming projects.
"We've been working on establishing interactive gaming for a number of years . . . and yes we're compelled to continue," he said.
Norfolk Island currently has six or seven applications from "very big US and Australian companies" in the pipeline and in March issued its first licence to US operator uBet.com, Gardner said.