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Australia Passes Bill That Bans Majority of Internet Gambling

29 June 2001

The Howard Government's watered-down ban on internet gambling was passed last night after more concessions to the minor parties. Under the new changes Australian operators will be fined if they offer casino-style online gambling services to designated countries that have banned the activity. And Australian's credit card gambling debts to foreign operators are deemed non-collectable.

Reports from Australia today stated that the Federal Government has agreed to stop Australia's online casinos offering bets to countries that choose to opt out of cyber betting. Under a "good neighbor policy", Senator Bob Bown said, his amendments would allow any country to ask the Australian Government to block local sites offering betting to its citizens.

Australians using their credit cards to wager on foreign internet casinos will collect if they win but won't have to pay if they lose under these amendments. The idea behind the amendments of Communication Minister Richard Alston, similar to those propose last week by Senator Bob Broan, would prevent Australian banks from honoring credit card debts from foreign gaming sites. The amendments draw support for the bill from the government's banking power. This is intended to dissuade overseas operators from offering services to people with Australian credit cards.

The Bill voted on today stops Australians from betting with cyber casinos, but allows sports and race betting online. Bookies properly registered by the state or territory in Australian will remain open for business. Foreign operators will be prevented from offering their services to Australians.

The ABC said Communications Minister Richard Alston stated there is a case to allow sports betting but that there was "no argument about casino type activity. It's mindless, its repetitive... it's a sure recipe for losing a lot of money very quickly, and that's really what comes through in this legislation... in other words we've dealt with the worst excesses of the new technology and I think we've taken a stand that overwhelmingly the Australian people wanted us to take."

As reported by the Herald Sun, reactions by the Casino community were negative. Australian Casino Association chief Chris Downy said, "The Government's legislation is a waste of time ... Australians will still access overseas operators because the legislation's provisions to stop this are nothing more than window dressing."

The report said that Lasseters Online managing director Peter Bridge said "Our understanding is we may have a claim for compensation under a High Court challenge if this legislation is passed ... It may also be subject to action through the World Trade Organization given it restricts our right to trade."

With legislation passed, Communications Minister Richard Alston must create regulations within six months to ensure banks do not honour wins and losses made on illegal gambling sites.

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