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31 May 2011

Australian Gambling: Xenophon Says Ban; Legal Eagle Nettleton Says Regulate, by Greg Tingle - 31st May 2011

Australian news media is currently saturated with a bush tucker bag of casino, gambling and political fun and games news. Here's the latest tidal wave of news from the land down under. Media Man and Gambling911 from the front line of the action...

The anti-gambling campaigner Nick 'Mr X' (satire) Xenophon has been unimpressed by the Australian Federal Police for slow action on enforcing laws which prohibit online casino and poker websites from accepting bets from Australians.

Legal eagles tell the media that there's lots of grey areas, and this appears so, as if there were not, no doubt arrests would have already been made.

Companies with any sort of connection into Australia, such as Media Man, have engaged professional legal guidance from legal eagles such as Jamie Nettleton, partner at law firm Addisons, and the word is that there's "grey areas" a plenty and no Australia's have ever been arrested for igaming, as long as the internet has been in existence. In addition that its starting to look like a bit of a media "beat up", fuelled along by anti gambling campaigners.

The world's leading igaming company Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment is watching the Australian situation very closely, to put it mildly, but is not publicly commenting on their assessment of Australia at this stage of the game.

Aussies long used sites such as PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker even though the Interactive Gambling Act prohibits the provision of "an interactive gambling service to customers in Australia".

Many website portals that offer games to a worldwide audience, that Australians can also accept, are based overseas, be it Canada, Gibraltar, Malta, the U.S or other.

The Australian Federal Police is currently investigating at the kind request of the FBI, out of the United States. No misprint!

The websites allegedly use Australian bank accounts to accept about $1 billion a year from an estimated 700,000 Australians and at least one, PokerStars, has an office in Sydney. Despite the sites openly flouting the law and bypassing advertising bans by sponsoring sporting teams such as the NRL teams and poker nights, police officers have yet to act and levy the $1.1 million a day fines outlined in the legislation. Media Man and other commentators don't believe many companies would be able to afford the $1 million + a day fine, and legal eagles have doubts over the apparent investigation.

Senator Xenophon said that following revelations in the press the Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform inquiry would be expanded to include online casino sites. He said it was "very disturbing" that the AFP was not enforcing the law and the FBI and the AFP would be invited to make submissions to the inquiry.

"There could be a hidden epidemic of problem gambling from online gambling that we just don't know about," Senator Xenophon told the Herald.

The AFP has stated previously that it uses a model to determine which cases to devote its limited resources to. It would not comment on Xenophon's criticisms yesterday.

Legal eagle and Media Man friend, Jamie Nettleton, partner at law firm Addisons and high level expert in legal issues relating to the gambling industry, advised the government should liberalise gambling laws and regulate online casino sites. This view has been echoed by the Productivity Commission and Sports Bet executive chairman Matthew Tripp.

Our friend Nettleton, who is the ex-chair of the Sports and Gaming Committee of the International Bar Association, said there was strong demand for online poker and prohibition would only push people to unregulated sites.

"This is part of the reason why countries like Italy, Spain, France and Denmark have all had a prohibitionist stance and are now going down a regulated alternative," stated Nettleton.

The Australian Government last week announced a review of the Interactive Gambling Act and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said yesterday it would not be appropriate to pre-empt the findings of that review.

Asked to comment on the AFP's investigation into the casino and poker websites, Senator Conroy said he supports action being taken against anyone proven to be breaching Australian law.

Senator Xenophon does not support liberalising gambling laws, saying the more accessible online gambling is the greater the risk of gambling problems developing.

June 20 is the date has has earmarked to introduce amendments to laws which would allow Australians to reverse credit card transactions with international gambling sites as long as it has not already been processed. This would allow people to get their money back even after losing bets and is designed to push the sites to stop accepting Australian customers.

Some internet brands such as Casino News Media and Global Gaming Directory have invested in both .coms, .nets and .orgs to help safeguard their investment, having forecast some potential legal issues coming from the U.S, where various .com domain names were seized by the United States Department of Justice. Many Australian companies which have covered gaming continue to report on dozens of other industries such as technology, property and celebrity, to ensure they are not totally reliant of the gaming sector as a source of news or income.

A Media Man insider said "If they grey areas continue around igaming and web publishing to get too blurred we might sell up and work for another mob, maybe in the pay television or video games industry, which are fully regulated and the grey areas just don't really exist. Maybe even the Australian communications watchdog. If you can't beat them, joint them".

Independent Andrew Wilkie, who chairs the Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform, said there "clearly" was a problem in Australia with online and interactive gambling. He said the committee's inquiry would examine the issues and provide recommendations to government.

"In the interim I fully support AFP efforts to crack down on illegal operations," Wilkie said.

Many Australian media and commentators continue to call Australia's the biggest gamblers in the world. Hope the Aussies are taking the title as a compliment.

Friends, good punting, know your limits and bet with your head, not over it.

Punters, er readers, stay glued to Media Man and Gambling911 reports for more "can't miss" information on Australian pokies, gaming and casino wars.

*Media Man http://www.mediamanint.com is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company. They cover a dozen industry sectors including gaming. Media Man also publishes Media Man News

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