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Australian Senate Calls for Online Gambling Controls

16 March 2000

An Australian Senate committee report on Internet gambling has recommended strict, regulatory controls on Australian online casino operators, including tough consumer protection measures to reduce problem gambling.

The report from the Senate Select Committee on Information technologies is the result of a set of public hearings around the country with interested groups from casino operators to industry and church groups.

The approach to Internet gambling in Australia is focused on preventing an increase in problem gamblers - an issue at the forefront of the public's mind with the increase in gaming venues and casinos in all states. While physical venues can be limited, the Internet can offer 24 hour gambling from home without the restrictions and controls put on physical casinos.

One of the recommendations from committee chair Jeanie Ferris is a move toward a uniform national policy on Internet gambling. Currently, the states either have no legislation at all or have licensed operators in their own jurisdiction. Ferris wants a halt to any more Internet gambling licenses until measures are in place.

Australia's first government-licensed Internet casino, Lasseters Online, reacted positively to the Senate report. Lasseters General Manager David Ohlson contributed to the inquiry and has been calling for uniform national legislation since the casino launched last April. Lasseters Online reports a turnover (known as handle in the U.S.) of A$50 million (US$30.70 million) in under a year of operation.

"If uniform controls are implemented then players will be able to have absolute confidence that Australian operators uphold the highest standards of regulation worldwide," he said today.

"There is an urgent need for action to be taken to agree on a national framework," he added, saying that if Australia is slow to act, then other nations could win back the country's competitive advantage in this lucrative industry.

Ferris identified a number of consumer measures that should be included in requirements for online gambling licenses, including the outlawing of direct credit card online gambling, self and third-party exclusions for problem gamblers, predetermined betting amounts, limited gambling times with regular cooling off times and a permanent screen display of financial losses and gains."

Most of these measures are currently at use at Lasseters Online, according to Ohlson.

Exchange Rate: $1 = A$1.63

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