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Australian Police ignore NRL sponsorship complaints against online poker sites

An attempt to launch a prosecution against Australian sports clubs in sponsorship deals with online gambling companies has not been successful, with federal police declining to get involved, reports The Age newspaper.

The request for prosecution came from the federal government's Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, which referred sponsorship deals involving NRL clubs and online poker websites to the Australian Federal Police.

The Department falls under Australia's controversial cabinet minister Steven Conroy, already internationally notorious for his ongoing attempts to censor the internet through confidential ISP blacklists concocted by a government agency.

The issue has its genesis in the sponsorship of two NRL clubs by online poker websites.

The Age reports that at the start of the season Full Tilt Poker became short sponsors for the Sydney Roosters. Shortly after, rival online poker company PokerStars struck a sponsorship deal with the Cronulla Sharks.

Both companies use the .net advertising strategy whereby gambling is not directly offered on dot net websites which promote the companies.

NRL chief executive David Gallop signed off on the uniform deals in April this year, but in early June Conroy's department referred the sponsorship deals to the Australian Federal Police, claiming that the Interactive Gaming Act of 2001 ''prohibits the advertising of interactive gambling services in Australia, including on the internet''.

Conroy confirmed that his department had decided the deals were in breach of the act, and both were referred to the federal police.

"Happily for the clubs involved, the police have so far decided not to investigate," The Age notes.

The New Zealand courts were recently approached with a similar government complaint, in which the courts ruled in favour of online gambling, finding that dot net advertising is not an inducement to gamble.

The case before Justice David J Harvey was brought by the New Zealand government's Department of Internal Affairs, which complained that a company titled TVWorks, the owner of television stations TV3 and C4, had carried .net play-for-free advertising for Pokerstars, a major provider of gambling services.

Meanwhile the Australian federal government remains set against online online gambling regulation, most recently rejecting the recommendation by its own Productivity Commission that regulation was preferable to prohibition.

A joint statement from Senator Conroy, Assistant Treasurer Nick Sherry and Jenny Macklin, Minister for Families, Housing and Community Services, asserted last week:

''The Australian Government does not support the liberalisation of online gaming, including online poker, as recommended by the Productivity Commission.

''The Government is not convinced that liberalising online gaming would have benefits for the Australian community which would outweigh the risks of an increased incidence of problem gambling, particularly with the rapid changes in technology.''

Conroy's latest attack on internet gambling has achieved one thing - it has apparently intimidated NRL chief executive David Gallop, dissuading him from approving further sponsorships.

The Age reports that Gallop has written to NRL clubs and advised that no further online gambling deals will be considered by the league.

Source: InfoPowa News

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