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Another Australian State Issues New Online Gaming Licenses, Defying the Federal Government

22 May 2000

The war between Australia's federal government and its states and territories over the licensing of Internet gaming sites continued today, with a federal official suggesting that the recent spate of licenses may be overruled.

Tasmania became the latest jurisdiction to defy the federal government, which Friday said it was drafting legislation to force a 12-month moratorium on new licenses. If and when the ban becomes law, the government said, it would be retroactive to Friday.

According to the Australian Associated Press, Tasmania's Deputy Premier and Gaming Minister, Paul Lennon, revealed Sunday that the Tasmanian Gaming Commission had approved five new licenses for online casinos or sports books before Friday's moratorium announcement.

Two federal ministers had reacted angrily Friday when the Australian Capital Territory issued two new licenses. That action led the federal government to declare that a moratorium would be effectively immediately.

Australia has been the most prominent country to license, regulate and tax online gaming. But Prime Minister John Howard's government would like to see it banned, believing it will cause an increase in the country's growing number of compulsive gamblers. Australians spend more money per capita on wagering than the citizens of most countries.

The government tried to sell the states and territories on the idea of a 12-month moratorium on new licenses for Internet casinos and sports books. But last month, all but two of the states and territories rejected a moratorium.

Senator Jocelyn Newman, Minister for Family and Community Services, today accused the "self-interested and greedy states" of pursuing "tainted gold," the AAP reported.

"The legal situation will have to be examined, quite clearly," Newman said, referring to the recent licenses.

The AAP said in its story Sunday that Tasmania's Lennon declined to name the five new licensees. But he said the state would benefit from the investment in Internet gaming sites, which would pursue foreign gamblers, particularly from Asia.

"Tasmania asserts its rights under the Constitution to run its affairs," Lennon told the AAP. "That right includes the issuing of Internet gaming licenses, without interference from the federal government."

Last year, Tasmania issued a license for an online casino to Network Gaming, but that site is not yet in operation.

The ACT licenses announced Friday were to Tattersalls, apparently for an online casino, and to the ACT TAB, apparently for an online sports book.

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