Australian broadcaster ABC's current affairs program The World Today tackled the contentious subject of the Australian government's ban on internet gambling this week, revealing that that there has been little enforcement and highlighting government's refusal to accept the recommendation of the Productivity Commission that the pastime be legalised and regulated.
Earlier this year the government affirmed it did not support the Commission's recommendations despite indications that there was a clear demand for online gambling and a slew of overseas based sites providing services for Aussies and making millions of dollars in the process.
The program reported that legal experts have warned that prohibition has not worked and that Australians are vulnerable to disreputable online casinos run in some cases by operators of dubious integrity.
The report included interviews with online punters, and the aggressive and intrusive marketing of online casinos once a gambler had provided contact details.
One interviewee, Gambling Help Network chairman and Lifeline Darling Downs CEO Derek Tuffield, made the debateable claim that that people betting online are having problems with gambling to a greater extent than those using land-based venues.
"Problem gamblers are about 20% of people who are going online at the moment which is much, much higher, almost 20 times higher than what we've seen at a land-based level," he claimed.
Another interviewee, Jamie Nettleton, is a senior counsel in gambling law who says no-one has been prosecuted under the 2001 Interactive Gambling Act.
"It hasn't really been enforced at all," he said. "And indeed it's legislation which is principally directed at people outside Australia. And even if attempts were made to enforce it, it's very unlikely to actually be enforced against the providers of those services."
Nettleton went on to argue that the Aussie government's prohibitionary approach has failed and resulted in the country falling behind in the regulation of internet gambling websites, despite the fact that Australia was at one time perceived as a progressive leader in its online gambling strategies.
"The difficulty is that prohibition just isn't working," he concluded.
His view was to some extent confirmed by Dr Sally Gainsbury, a researcher in online gambling in Australia who agrees the federal government has not kept up with the growing online gaming industry.
"Policy just stopped when the Interactive Gaming Act came in," she opined. "Internet gambling itself is very dynamic and it's moved and changed and participation has increased.
"So it is suggested that this prohibitionary stance might be outdated and more up-to-date regulation is needed to manage and to appropriately deal with internet gambling in Australia."
Online gambling is also extending its reach with the rise of social media and internet on mobile devices, the program points out.
The Productivity Commission's report recommended some types of online gaming such as poker be legalised to ensure better regulation of the industry.
Approached for a government comment, a Communications Department spokesman told ABC that the Gillard government is getting advice on overseas approaches and that the issue will be discussed at the next COAG meeting.
Source: InfoPowa News