Australia’s Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (the "Act") came into effect on 11 July 2001 (with some provisions coming into effect at later dates). The Act is a response by the Federal Government to concerns that the Internet will exacerbate problem gambling among Australians, and will increase further the economic and social costs that are caused by problem gambling. The Act seeks to safeguard Australians from Internet gambling by targeting both interactive gambling service providers and Australian Internet service providers ("ISPs") to implement measures to prevent persons in Australia, and in certain foreign countries, being able to access interactive gambling services.
An interactive gambling service is a gambling service that is provided to customers in the ordinary course of business using various means such as the Internet, broadcast and datacast services. This is a wide definition and clearly targets on-line casinos and other on-line gaming services. The definition is subject to several exceptions such as telephone betting, certain lottery services, services associated with particular television or radio programs and the broadcast of gambling services associated with a trade promotion as part of an advertising campaign.
However, the Act is not directly concerned with the behaviour of persons accessing interactive gambling services. Rather, it targets both interactive gambling service providers and Australian Internet service providers ("ISPs") to implement measures to prevent end users in Australia, and in certain foreign countries, from accessing, and being able to access, interactive gambling services.
There are two main prohibitions under the Act. First, there is a general prohibition on both Australian and foreign persons from providing interactive gambling services to customers in Australia. Second, Australian-based interactive gambling services are prohibited from providing interactive gambling services to customers in certain designated countries. The Government Minister may only declare a country to be a designated country if requested by the government of that country and provided corresponding legislation is put in place in that country.
Corporations face a maximum penalty of $1,100,000 per day if they commit an offence against either of these prohibitions.
The Act also contains general prohibitions on publishing, broadcasting or datacasting advertisements in Australia for interactive gambling services.
Where a prohibited Internet gambling service is hosted outside Australia, the Act seeks to impose both regulatory and mandatory obligations upon Australian ISPs to take steps to restrict access by Australians to such services.
The Act is monitored by the Australian Broadcasting Authority ("ABA"), and enforced both by the ABA and the Australian police force.
The Act is extremely detailed and many of the prohibitions are potentially of broad application. For example, many of the prohibitions purport to apply to offshore interactive gambling service providers. Notwithstanding the prohibitions, it is clear that:
the Act only applies to certain specified interactive gambling services, including online casinos;
other forms of interactive gambling services, such as sportsbetting operators or lotteries, are not caught by the Act, except to a limited extent.
The following points should also be borne in mind:
Interactive gambling operators can conduct business in Australia provided the appropriate licence is obtained in accordance with the laws of a State or Territory. Care will need to be taken to ensure that its business complies with this Act (to the extent it is applicable).
Regulations may affect the operation of the Act, for example by imposing additional conditions with which a lottery must comply before the lottery is exempted from the operational prohibitions. At the date of this note, the regulations have not been drafted.
The Act will be reviewed in 2003.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.
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The government now seems eager to implement harsher penalties in line with the ACCC's strict new auditing campaign.
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