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Glenn Barry
 

Speech By Qld Minister

7 March 1998

This speech to the Queensland Parliament was made in support of the Interactive Gambling (Player Protection) Bill 1998 on March 5th 1998 by the Deputy Premier, Treasurer, Minister for The Arts and Minister responsible for women's affairs, The Honourable Joan Sheldon MLA.

Interactive Gambling (Player Protection) Bill 1998

Mr Speaker, I now move that this Bill be read a second time.

This is a very significant piece of legislation dealing with a complex and rapidly evolving issue. For the first time in Australia all gambling accessible in private residences via telecommunications will be subject to specific Government regulation. Moreover, Australia is the first nation to seriously address the fact that Internet gambling is already occurring in an unregulated manner throughout the world. The Interactive Gambling (Player Protection) Bill has been developed as a means to protect consumers participating in games offered through the Internet and other such forms of interactive gambling.

This Bill has been developed in recognition of the incredible pace of technological innovation in today’s society and, in particular, the rise in access and use of the Internet. This has meant that governments can no longer avoid the issue of regulating interactive gambling. The Queensland Government has acknowledged that the issues surrounding Internet and interactive gambling will not disappear and require addressing in a responsible manner. The proposed Bill is an acknowledgement by the Queensland Government of this responsibility.

The Queensland Government has recognised that this is an enormous challenge. However, it is one that cannot be ignored simply because it is difficult.

The range of interactive gambling products seems to be practically infinite. For example, there are already a number of "virtual" casinos and lotteries currently available on the Internet, sourced in countries as widely dispersed as Liechtenstein and Antigua. These sites are currently available to almost anyone with Internet access throughout the world.

Despite the rise of new technologies which have facilitated these forms of gambling, it should also be remembered that interactive gambling is not a totally new concept. Queenslanders were first given the opportunity to gamble utilising interactive technology in 1962 with the introduction of "phone betting" by the Queensland TAB. Today, phone betting is regulated under the provisions of the Racing and Betting Act 1980. The use of the telephone as an instrument for placing wagers on racing events has become the preferred method of participating in wagering for many punters. It is widely considered that the telephone betting regime provides a safe and secure means for punters to place their bets.

However, the rise in technological innovations means that interactive gambling now requires specific legislation to deal with the provision of gambling products into private residences via telecommunication means. While some of these means already exist, the Bill has also been designed to capture any new technology which may emerge in the future. In essence, the Bill has been designed to regulate existing gambling activities in conjunction with existing Gaming Acts or to stand alone as a regulatory mechanism for new or previously unregulated gambling activities which may be accessible in private residences via interactive means. It is also important to note that the Bill will not, and is not intended to, expand the range of gaming products available through commercial venues such as casinos, clubs and hotels.

The Queensland Office of Gaming Regulation will be responsible for administering the provisions of the proposed legislation. Currently, the Office of Gaming Regulation is also responsible for regulating machine gaming, casinos, art unions, keno and lotteries in this State and is the logical regulator of interactive gambling in Queensland. The role of the Office of Gaming Regulation will ensure that all forms gaming and wagering, whether conducted by traditional means or electronically, are conducted in accordance with a consistently high level of probity and integrity.

A primary aim of the Bill is to ensure that those who wish to participate in interactive gambling can do so confidently and in a secure regulatory environment. Accordingly, the Bill includes a number of consumer protection principles. I particularly wish to highlight a number of provisions designed to ensure that those who wish to participate in interactive gambling can do so confidently, fully aware of the stringent consumer protection provisions.

Specifically, the legislation includes provisions which will restrict access to minors. This includes ensuring that adequate proof of age has been supplied to a licensed operator prior to the allowing a player to register as a player.

The Bill will enable a player to set limits on the amount of individual and cumulative bets. Such limits may apply to a bet on a particular game or state a maximum amount that can be wagered by a player over a period of time. Alternatively, a player may set a limit of zero which would exclude them from participating in the gambling activity.

In addition, if a person is concerned about their own or another player’s welfare and believes that the gambling habits pose a threat to the player or the player’s family, an application may be made to have the player banned from participating in any form of licensed interactive gaming activity. Such a ban would prevent the player from participating in interactive gambling which is licensed in Queensland or in any other participating jurisdiction.

The legislation will also control advertising and marketing of interactive gambling. These provisions ensure that any advertising of interactive gambling products is conducted responsibly and in an appropriate manner.

In line with all other gaming legislation in Queensland, credit betting will be prohibited.

In addition, the legislation contains a number of responsible gambling provisions which ensure that the public interest is paramount to the operation of licensed interactive gambling activities available in this State. This regulatory regime ensures that the highest standards of probity and integrity are maintained in the provision of interactive gambling.

The Bill has been developed in acknowledgement of the principles of a national regulatory framework, which was prepared by Gaming Ministers from jurisdictions throughout Australia. The National approach seeks to minimise the impact of gambling products provided from overseas or illegal sources by prohibiting advertising and marketing by illegal operators and by providing alternative products where the entitlements of players are protected. These principles have been developed following extensive consultation and cooperation between the jurisdictions. I turn now to the provisions of the Bill.

Specifically, the Bill provides the scope and principal elements relating to the operation of interactive gambling. In summary, the Bill will:

  • provide a regulatory framework for the conduct of interactive gambling;
  • allow for licenses to be issued to approved providers of interactive gambling activities;
  • allow for the mutual recognition of licensed providers from other jurisdictions within Queensland and vice versa;
  • allow for taxes to be levied on licensed providers; and, most significantly,
  • provide a detailed regime for the protection of people who participate in interactive gambling and the community generally.

Part 2 of the Bill provides the framework for a co-operative arrangement among jurisdictions with which the Queensland Government enters into an Agreement. The Agreement will specify matters on which Queensland will recognise providers licensed in the other jurisdictions. This will ensure that all jurisdictions participating in the regulation of interactive gambling offer consistently high legislative standards as those which are currently in place in this State.

This Part of the Bill also defines some key terms of the legislation in establishing authorised providers and authorised games. Essentially, the legislation will provide penalties against those who offer games which have not been authorised under this legislation or the corresponding legislation of a participating jurisdiction. It will also provide penalties against those who participate in such gambling activities knowing that they are not an authorised game.

Further, the Bill prohibits the advertising of premises for playing interactive games or from obtaining, or seeking to obtain, commercial advantage from the use of premises for playing interactive games. At this point Mr Speaker, I would like to reaffirm that this legislation will not expand the availability of gaming through commercial venues. It will merely ensure that individuals can participate in gaming activities in their own home assured that the activity is appropriately regulated.

Part 3 of the Bill provides for the issuing of licenses to providers to offer specific gambling products via interactive means. It is intended that this Part outlines the requirement for the application and issue of such licences, as well as providing for circumstances where disciplinary action may be taken for breaches of the licence. Such disciplinary action may include issuing a show cause notice, censuring a licensee, notification to rectify action taken by a licensee, suspension of a licence or revocation of a licence. These provisions allow for the investigation, by the chief executive of the Department, of the suitability of a person or corporation to hold a licence under the Bill.

Part 4 of the Bill provides a comprehensive regime for the licensing of persons who hold positions which are identified by the chief executive as affecting or substantially influencing the operations of an interactive gambling licensee. This licence will be known as a Key Person Licence. Similar to other gaming legislation currently in force in Queensland, key persons will be required to have their photograph and fingerprints taken so that appropriate investigations may be conducted. This regime will ensure that all interactive gambling activities conducted pursuant to the proposed legislation, are done so in accordance with the highest levels of probity and integrity.

Supporting this requirement, the Bill will prevent any person who has failed to satisfy probity requirements from holding or retaining a position which has been identified as a key person position.

The Bill also provides that an interactive gambling licensee may appoint an agent to:

  • register a player;
  • establish a player’s account;
  • accept deposits for, or authorise withdrawals from a player’s account;

or

  • perform any other function which may be approved by the chief executive, such as advertising and marketing functions.

A person will also be considered an agent if they conduct any of the above activities within Queensland on behalf of an interactive gambling provider who is licensed in a participating jurisdiction.

In particular, provisions have been included in the Bill which create guidelines for the development of agency agreements as well as requiring that agency agreements may then only be amended with the approval of the chief executive. The Bill also specifies the grounds for termination of such an agreement. Finally, this part enables the Minister to take disciplinary action against an agent.

Mr Speaker, this is not intended to impinge on the rights of a licensee to enter into commercial arrangements with its agents, but, rather, is intended to ensure that all gambling activities undertaken under this legislation meet a consistently high level of probity and integrity.

There are also provisions in the Bill for the remittance of licence fees and taxes by the Government. Part 6 outlines details on the requirement that licensed providers pay licence fees as specified under the conditions of the interactive gambling licence. In addition, the Bill provides that an interactive gambling tax will be levied on licensed providers at a rate set by regulation. This is consistent with legislation controlling existing land-based games.

This Bill differs from other Queensland gaming legislation in that it provides for revenue sharing with other participating jurisdictions. Essentially this means that the Queensland Government will be party to an agreement which will provide that a proportion of tax collected from a licensed provider will be returned to the participating jurisdiction, reflecting the extent to which players from that jurisdiction contributed to the licensed provider’s total gambling turnover. This is an essential element of this Bill and, as part of negotiations with participating jurisdictions, similar revenue sharing arrangements will be provided to the Queensland Government from other participating jurisdictions. Mr Speaker, this regime clearly shows that this legislation has not been developed as a means of increasing Government revenue at the expense of other Australian jurisdictions. It should be noted, however, that the Government revenue received from overseas players would be retained by the Government.

Part 7 of the Bill contains a number of compliance requirements which are designed, in a consistent manner to other Queensland gaming legislation, to ensure that appropriate control and monitoring provisions are set in place. Specifically, these requirements include:

  • ensuring adequate control systems are set in place;
  • the establishment and administration of players’ accounts;
  • the maintenance of gambling records;
  • financial accounting and reporting obligations;
  • audit obligations;
  • ensuring prizes are appropriately paid; and
  • handling of complaints.

Also included in this Part are an extensive list of gambling offences - including cheating, forgery and deception, and bribery to mention just a few - and a number of responsible gaming provisions.

Parts 8 and 9 provide the mechanisms for enforcement of the Bill’s provisions. These parts outline the powers of investigation and enforcement to be given to appropriate officers within the Queensland Office of Gaming Regulation and outline legal proceedings for offences against the legislation.

Finally, I wish to stress that it is important to recognise that, as the development of regulatory codes to control commercial activities which occur using Internet and interactive technology is in its infancy, this Bill may require future streamlining. Such amendments may be necessary to ensure that the Bill creates a regulatory regime within which consumers may participate in approved gaming activities with full knowledge that they are being offered in an appropriately controlled environment.

Mr Speaker, this historic piece of legislation represents this Government’s commitment to ensuring that all gaming and wagering activities operated within this State are done so in a strictly regulated environment and in recognition of responsible gambling provisions.

I commend the Bill to the House.

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Speech By Qld Minister is republished from iGamingNews.com.
Glenn Barry
Glenn Barry