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Kevin Smith

Lasseters Online Considers Relocating

5 September 2003

Could Australia's only online casino be leaving the country?

Lasseters Corp. Managing Director Peter Bridge created a small stir at the company's annual general meeting Wednesday when he disclosed that the Alice Springs-based group is considering an alternate jurisdiction for its online casino.

"We would prefer that we didn't need to consider this."
-Peter Bridge

Bridge said the they're only considering this option because a pending review of the Interactive Gambling Act (IGA) of 2001 could result in tougher restrictions for Australian operators. A pending government report will assess the growth of interactive gambling services, operation of the Act and technical developments since the Act was passed.

"We would prefer that we didn't need to consider this," he said. "But if necessary, we are prepared in order to ensure business continuity."

All options are under consideration, Bridge said, but the company realistically will only relocate to a "high level" jurisdiction where online gambling is regulated and a sensible tax structure is in place.

The Isle of Man, Alderney and Vanuatu would become leading contenders due to their high regard among the online gaming industry as well regulated jurisdictions.

The review of the IGA is underway, with a full report from the federal Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts (DCITA) due by winter. The department has received more than 30 submission from a wide-ranging number of companies, trade organizations and individuals representing everything from the banking community and online operators to land-based casinos and the horseracing industry. The DCITA will send its completed to review to Communications Minister Richard Alston.

Bridge said the board is preparing for a worse-case scenario, but he also pointed out that the review could yield results that would allow Lasseters to stay in Alice Springs and expand its business.

While the DCITA hasn't publicly stated which way it will go, the general consensus among the industry is that the review will not recommend that Australia go back to its pre-IGA days when it was one of only a handful of jurisdictions where online gambling was regulated and licensed.

The IGA put a number of restrictions on Internet gambling businesses, particularly on online casinos, which are banned from offering or advertising its services to Australian residents. Many are worried the review will recommend expanding the restrictions. Among new policies under consideration is a measure restricting financial transactions associated with online gambling, an approach being looked at in Washington.

Aside from the pending legislative changes, Bridge was upbeat about the company's recent performance. The company posted a profit of AU$320,000 on revenues of $11.8 million during the fiscal year of 2002-03 and reported a 46 percent increase in turnover during the last year for Lasseters Online.

Bridge and the directors were pleased with the profit, especially considering the tougher operating standards for Australian-based companies under the IGA and the lack of national acceptance of online gambling through Australia.

"Given that, in Australia, there is still some skepticism regarding the potential for businesses devoted to e-commerce, it is extremely gratifying to see this result," he said.

Lasseters Online launched in 1998 as Australia's first physical casino to offer cash gaming on the Internet in a fully regulated environment. A few others have come and gone, but Lasseters Online is the country's only remaining licensed online casino.

Lasseters Corporation was formed in April 2001 via a merger with listed company Gocorp, which was forced to close down its Internet casino operation after the Australian government imposed a moratorium on Internet gambling.

Lasseters Online Considers Relocating is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith