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Australian Government Announces Details of Study on Net Gambling Ban

10 July 2000

The Australian Government has issued the terms of reference for its study into the feasibility and consequences of a permanent ban on certain forms of Internet and interactive gambling.

A government agency, the National Office for the Information Economy (NOIE), will conduct the study under direction from Federal IT Minister, Richard Alston.

The Federal Government is already planning a one-year ban on new Internet and "interactive" gambling licenses while the study is undertaken.

The moratorium has come about on concerns that extensive gambling in Australia is causing social problems, but does not address where most gambling takes place in Australia - 24-hour slot machine venues, pubs and casinos. These are regulated by the individual state governments. Alston has said that Internet gambling could exacerbate problem gambling.

Regulating Internet and telephone gambling services federally is possible as the services fall under national telecommunications laws. Various forms of sports betting and share market speculation via the Internet are to escape the ban, however.

The NOIE study will examine ways of banning Internet gambling for good - if it is found to be possible - as well as assessing the technical, economic and social consequences of such a ban. Submissions from the public are being invited.

Banning options looked at will include: bans on Australia-hosted service providers, blocking Australians' access to overseas gambling Web sites, and blocks based on transactions.

Critics have pointed out that banning local providers will just drive people to unregulated overseas providers with more risks and fewer consumer protections.

Restricting access to overseas Web sites could only be done through the use of mandatory Internet filters and/or Web site block lists. Australia already has Internet censorship legislation that requires ISPs to block Web sites overseas if directed to by the Australian Broadcasting Authority. But the experience with porn has shown that it is impossible to block all relevant sites effectively.

The terms of reference for the study are on the Web, at www.noie.gov.au/gambling.

Reported By Newsbytes, www.newsbytes.com.

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