Alliance working on gambling ban details

Alliance MP Grant Gillon says the detail of a ban proposed by the party on internet gambling in New Zealand has not yet been decided.

In particular, it has not been settled whether the Alliance should propose New Zealanders be prohibited from gambling on overseas sites as well as sites at home.

Gillon's proposal was signalled in a brief paragraph at the end of the Alliance's submission to the government's review of gaming.

Equivalent Australian legislation is going through the federal parliament, sponsored by Senator Richard Alston, and would at this stage only prohibit gambling by Australians on Australian websites.

A spokesman at Senator Alston's office confirms Australians would be free to gamble on overseas sites -- "We couldn't prevent them doing that" -- and overseas gamblers would be allowed to use Australian sites. The proposed law will forbid overseas sites from advertising in Australia, but he concedes advertising via the internet itself would be difficult to keep from Australian eyes.

Computerworld posed the question of bans on overseas sites to Gillon, and he replied via email: "The Alliance suggests that we should note the Australian proposals with interest. We should consider enacting similar legislation; (that does not mean [working to enact] the exact legislation).

"Before NZ does [that] it will need to look at a number of issues associated with internet gambling. These would include the effectiveness and appropriateness of the Australian legislation and also whether the aims could be achieved in a more practical manner." That might include making New Zealanders' gambling debts unrecoverable by the gaming establishment.

"The submission was carefully worded to show the intent in principle without prescribing the mechanisms," Gillon says.

The Australian proposal has attracted a good deal of adverse comment; not only from the gambling industry, but from those who fear Australians prohibited from gambling on Australian sites would link to overseas sites. That would export the gambling revenue and potential tax on it while leaving any gambling social problems at home, they say.

Whether overseas gambling is prohibited or not, it would require some kind of software blocking by NZ government agencies, or more practically by site proprietors, against access by users at home. Blocking of websites is a contentious issue; the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs, addressing matters of censorship compliance, has said it is very difficult or impossible, and denies doing it or even experimenting with the idea, as has the Police.

Many New Zealand internet experts suggested in the course of the censorship discussion that there would always be ways for users to misidentify themselves to a website as not being New Zealanders, by using an anonymiser service or an open proxy server. But an Xtra spokeswoman suggests the ISP has the technology to block and will do so on an authorised request from an appropriate government authority. It has not, however, done so yet, she says.