On Thursday 25 August, the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) released a discussion paper to its announced review of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (Cth) (the IGA). This is the first time the IGA has been reviewed by the Government since 2004.1
The discussion paper2is an extensive document with a large number of questions which we have set out below. Although the questions do not clearly indicate a preference on the part of DBCDE, they suggest that the review will give serious consideration to how managed liberalisation could take place.
We have already commented3 on the possibility that the online gambling sector will not take this review seriously on the basis that it is yet another inquiry and that, despite all inquiries recommending some form of managed liberalisation, all recommendations have been ignored. In other words - is it worth the effort?
A view of this nature would ignore the necessity for reasoned submissions to be made commenting on the matters under consideration. DBCDE has recognised the prohibitionist approach in the IGA is inconsistent with regulations in many other countries and is looking for a regulatory approach which addresses the policy objection of the review, namely to ensure that "the prevalence of problem gambling in the online environment and gambling addiction in Australia is limited".
It is therefore important that all participants in the online gambling sector consider making submissions. These might include:
- operators such as online gaming operators and online bookmakers;
- service providers, such as software developers and financial intermediaries (ranging from banks to other payment providers);
- ISPs, telecommunication carriers and broadcasters; and
- problem gambling support organisations.
The deadline for submissions is 21 October 2011.
The questions are as follows:
Growth of online gambling services and links to problem gambling
- What impact has the IGA had on the prevalence of problem gambling in Australia?
- What are the risks to the prevalence of problem gambling in Australia of maintaining, removing or modifying the current prohibition of certain online gambling services? What are the risks in moving to a strongly regulated approach? How is it best to address these risks?
- What impact have different types of online gambling had on youth in Australia?
The impact of platform neutrality, developing technologies and convergence on the regulation of gambling services
- What are the new technologies/platforms via which online gambling is offered and which of these is likely to grow most rapidly?
- Are there circumstances in which different approaches to regulation of gambling between different platforms/technologies should be retained?
- Do the practicalities of telephone wagering still limit access to high-repetitive forms of wagering as originally designed?
- If a platform-neutral approach were adopted, what would the impacts be? How should this deal with future forms of gambling?
- Has 'in-the-run' betting and 'micro-betting' increased the prevalence of problem gambling and/or risks to the integrity of sport and/or to the probity of the gambling market? If so, how and to what degree?
- Should current rules regarding online 'in-the-run' betting and online 'micro-betting' be aligned with those in the offline world? Are there circumstances where they should not be aligned?
- If current prohibitions to online 'in-the-run' betting and online 'micro-betting' are retained, how best would these be enforced?
The effectiveness of the existing provisions of the IGA
- Are there sections of the IGA that could operate more clearly?
- Could the current sanctions regime in the IGA be improved, and if so how?
- Are the current regulatory arrangements under the IGA the most effective way in which to limit the provision of prohibited interactive gambling services to Australians?
- Given that currently prohibited online gambling services are offered predominantly by service providers based overseas, are there more effective means of enforcing the prohibition? What options might be used?
- Are there more effective means of enforcing the advertising prohibition? What role should sports bodies and broadcasters play regarding such advertising? What role should state and territory governments play?
International regulatory approaches to online gambling services
- What international approaches to online gambling are most effective?
- What (if any) international approaches to online gambling would most suit an Australian context?
The possible impacts of regulated access to services currently prohibited under the IGA
- What are the key risks and harms of online gambling? What are the key attractions and benefits?
- If a strongly regulated approach to online gambling services is taken, what will be the social impacts? How could this be assessed?
Best practice probity and harm minimisation measures
- What harm minimisation measures are currently used for online gambling in Australia and overseas, and how effective are they in limiting problem gambling and supporting problem gamblers?
- Does industry have a responsibility to support harm minimisation measures, including education and counselling services?
- What probity measures are available in relation to online gambling, and how effective are they in protecting consumers?
- If a strongly regulated approach to online gambling services is taken, what consumer protection measures should be put in place? Should measures be used to monitor for problem gambling behaviour and referral to support services?
- Do Australian gamblers value gambling services licensed in Australia more than those based overseas?
Governance and administration
- What should be the governance arrangements for the interactive gambling services currently prohibited by the IGA?
- How can we work better with other countries and overseas based providers to improve regulation, enforcement and probity and harm minimisation measures?
- If a strongly regulated approach is adopted, what form of regulation should this take?
- If a strongly regulated approach is taken, overseas service providers that do not come within such regulation will still be capable of providing gambling services to Australians given the nature of the Internet? What measures are appropriate to discouraging this?
- If a strong-regulated approach is taken, how should licensed online gambling operators be taxed?
- Should a portion of revenue be used to fund problem gambling support services and research?
- Should a portion of revenue be used to fund other programs?
3 See comments in Gambling Compliance, 26 August 2011.
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.