On 17 May 2011, the Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform (JSCOGR) announced its Inquiry into Interactive Gambling. Among the matters to be considered by the Inquiry are the current regulatory framework relating to interactive gambling (which will involve a review of both gaming and wagering over the Internet), as well as issues relating to match-fixing and gambling advertising. In our conversation with an officer of the Committee today, submissions from all parties involved in, or interested in, online gambling activity are invited.
Accordingly, parties who may wish to make submissions include:
- wagering operators;
- online gaming operators;
- online poker operators;
- broadcasters of sports programming and poker tournaments (whether conducted in Australia or overseas);
- sporting organisations;
- community organisations and other parties interested in ensuring appropriate standards are in place relating to harm minimisation arising from gambling.
Inquiry into Online Gambling
JSCOGR announced on 17 May 2011 that it would conduct an inquiry into the prevalence of interactive and online gambling in Australia (the Inquiry).
More specifically, the terms of reference of the Inquiry are as follows:
The prevalence of interactive and online gambling in Australia and the adequacy of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 to effectively deal with its social and economic impacts, with particular reference to:
(a) the recent growth in interactive sports betting and the changes in online wagering due to new technologies;
(b) the development of new technologies, including mobile phones, smart phones and interactive television, that increase the risk and incidence of problem gambling;
(c) the relative regulatory frameworks of online and non-online gambling;
(d) inducements to bet on sporting events online;
(e) the risk of match-fixing in sports as a result of the types of bets available online, and whether certain types of bets should be prohibited, such as spot-betting in sports which may expose sports to corruption;
(f) the impact of betting exchanges, including the ability to bet on losing outcomes;
(g) the implications of betting on political events, particularly election outcomes;
(h) appropriate regulation, including codes of disclosure, for persons betting on events over which they have some participation or special knowledge, including match-fixing of sporting events; and
(i) any other related matters.
The Committee will also inquire into gambling advertising as a specific area of inquiry. The Committee is interested in views on: the level of gambling advertising; the display of betting odds at venues and during match broadcasts; commentators referring to the odds; and the general impact of gambling advertising on sport.
Background to JSCOGR
Following the Federal Election in August 2010, the current Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, was able to form government only after securing the support of a number of key independent members of Parliament. One of those members, Andrew Wilkie, entered into a formal agreement with Ms Gillard in order to secure his support.
Among other things, Ms Gillard and Mr Wilkie agreed to the creation of a Select Committee of the Parliament to act in an advisory role to the Government, particularly on progressing a national response to the recommendations of the Productivity Commission's Inquiry into Gambling.
JSCOGR was constituted officially in September 2010 and commenced its first inquiry into the introduction of a pre-commitment system for electronic gaming machines. The report for this inquiry was released on 6 May 2011.
As a joint select committee, JSCOGR includes members from both the upper and lower houses of Parliament. It is chaired by Mr Wilkie. Senator Nick Xenophon, an ardent anti-gambling politician, is the deputy chair of the Committee.
As a parliamentary committee, the recommendations of any inquiries are not binding on the Federal Government; however, given the importance of Mr Wilkie to the Federal Government's majority in the lower house, his concerns carry substantial weight. Although Senator Xenophon has expressed concern repeatedly regarding online gambling and a desire for increased regulation, Mr Wilkie has stated publicly that he has yet to take a position on the matter.
Prior to the 2010 Federal Election, a similar inquiry was commenced by the Senate Reference Committee on Community Affairs. This inquiry was initiated by Senator Xenophon but was deferred when the Election was called. On 30 September 2010, the reference of the inquiry was revised and Senator Xenophon referred the inquiry to the Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee. With the subsequent creation of JSCOGR, on 28 October 2010 the matter was withdrawn from the Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee and was referred to the Joint Select Committee for its consideration at a later date.
The Terms of Reference used in the present Inquiry are very similar to those held by the Senate Reference Committee on Community Affairs; however, a key difference is the addition of paragraphs (e) and (g). Both these paragraphs relate to "exotic bets", a topic of significant recent media coverage. Paragraph (e) deals with the connection between match fixing and corruption in sports and certain "types" of sports bets. Paragraph (g) deals with the implications of betting on political events.
JSCOGR has requested written submissions to be made to the Inquiry. Submissions may cover all the points in the terms of reference or only some of them, depending on the topics of interest to the relevant party.
Submissions are to be lodged by 30 June 2011. Public hearings will be held subsequently.
If you have any queries or wish to consider making a submission, please contact one of Addisons' gambling team.
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.