Governments battle over online betting

The brouhaha about online gambling and its merit or malevolence is set to worsen as state governments grant licenses and bear the brunt of Federal ire.

On the weekend, the federal minister for Family and Community Services, Jocelyn Newman, reiterated criticism of ACT regulators who last week issued online gambling licenses to Tattersalls and ACTTAB.

The federal government is proposing a 12-month moratorium on all "new forms" of online gambling, a suggestion approved only by the NSW and WA state governments.

According to Vicky Dunn, an advisor to the ACT Treasurer, Internet users wishing to gamble online can already do so using foreign web sites. Her government, she said, acknowledged this situation and aimed to allow a safer, regulated domestic alternative.

The licenses being issued by the ACT contain strict safeguards, she noted; for example, punters can't bet using credit cards, but must maintain a cash "account" with the casino operator. If infringements do occur, said Dunn, the ACT Gaming and Racing Commission has both the power and the will to act.

Despite the profound differences separating the pro-casino states and the Federal government, Dunn maintains a conciliatory tone, saying they are, and will remain, willing to discuss the issues until a satisfactory outcome is reached.

At press time, Senator Alston's department could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, the Internet Industry Association will hold a lunch forum on the issue today at the National Press Club in Canberra. Panelists will come from both government and the gaming industry, and the forum will include a demonstration of online gambling.

Sending somewhat mixed signals, IIA executive director Peter Coroneos said "The IIA neither condones nor disapproves of Internet gambling per se", but also noted that the association believed online gambling should be regulated, not banned.

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