On 12 March 2013, the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE or the Department) released its Final Report (Final Report)1 as part of its review of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (Cth) (the IGA).2
As with the release of the DBCDE's Interim Report on 29 May 2012,3 the Final Report makes a number of recommendations (set out in more detail below) which, if implemented will result in significant changes to the Australian regulatory landscape concerning online gambling.
The adoption of many of these recommendations is not likely to be immediate. On the same day that the Final Report was released, Senator Stephen Conroy, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, announced that the focus of the Commonwealth Government will be on developing and implementing a national standard for harm minimisation and consumer protection that covers all licensed online gambling activities. Further, Senator Conroy announced that the Government will not be giving consideration to the recommended changes relating to online poker or "in-play" sports wagering until agreement is reached in respect of a nationally consistent approach to harm minimisation.4
As a result, changes to the IGA are unlikely to be considered before the next Federal election, which is due to take place on 14 September 2013.
Final Report Recommendations
Of particular note are the following recommendations:
- the development of a national standard, applicable to all Australian licensed interactive gambling providers, to establish a framework for a minimum set of harm minimisation and consumer protection measures;
- online gambling providers that do not become licensed by an Australian state or territory jurisdiction will not be operating in accordance with the national standard, and therefore should be prohibited under the IGA;
- the introduction of civil penalties and other measures under the IGA, to be administered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), which will operate in addition to the existing criminal penalties to strengthen the effectiveness of the prohibitions on the operation and supply, as well as the advertising and promotion, of prohibited interactive gambling services;
- the development and establishment of an industry code of conduct by the Australian licensed online gambling industry, to ensure advertising is not contrary to community standards and expectations;
- an amendment to the IGA prohibiting advertisements for free-play sites that are associated with prohibited "play for money" sites, as they are promoting a prohibited service;
- the conduct of a 5 year pilot in respect of the licensing of online poker operators which will enable the provision of online poker tournaments, by these licensed operators, to Australian based consumers. However, the trial is not to start until after the proposed national minimum standard for harm minimisation and consumer protection has been adopted;
- in relation to in-play betting services, the IGA be amended to include a blanket ban prohibiting all micro-betting conducted through any form of electronic medium (telephone, internet, smart phone applications, interactive television etc), and at all physical outlets; and
- that popular social media services (for example Facebook) and mobile content providers closely monitor their user policies regarding gambling-style online social games and services, and ensure that these games and services are not inappropriately targeting or misleading younger children.
The Final Report also recommends the implementation of a number of measures to strengthen deterrence and enforcement provisions contained in the IGA.
Further Focus Papers relating to the Final Report (and its potential ramifications for the online wagering sector, online gaming sector and social gaming sector) will be published by Addisons in the near future.
The assistance of Karina Chong, Graduate, of Addisons in the preparation of this article is noted and greatly appreciated.
2 Further background to the Department's Review is set out in our publication Gambling Law & Regulation – Recent Developments in Australian Gambling Law – December 2011 at http://www.addisonslawyers.com.au/knowledge/Gambling_Law_and_Regulation_-_December_2011238.aspx
3 Further background and analysis of the Interim Report's recommendations is set out in a series of articles published by Addisons entitled " Australia – Review of the Interactive Gambling Act by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy – Interim Report Released - What does it mean for the Online Gambling Sector?" (General summary of the Interim Report), " DBCDE Inquiry into Interactive Gambling Act – Interim Report Released – What Does it Mean for Online Gaming in Australia?" (Focusing on the Online Gaming sector) and, " DBCDE Inquiry into Interactive Gambling Act – Interim Report – What Does it Mean for Wagering Operators in Australia? – Potential for Change in Australian Online Gambling Regulatory Landscape" (Focusing on the Online Wagering sector).
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