Online gambling companies offering services to Australians could be in for a rude awakening after the government amended the current gaming laws.
While the world was watching events unfold in America, the federal government was quietly introducing a new gambling law into parliament.
The Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 is the result of a nearly year-long review into the ways online sportsbetting sites operate Down Under.
“Illegal” offshore providers will be required to meet certain requirements in order to operate in Australia.
However, currently many of the big UK and Irish betting sites operate legally in Oz under licenses from Northern Territory.
Fines On The Menu For Illegal Betting Sites
Illegal betting sites without a local license will face fines of $1.35 million a day, with operators being charged much more. The ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority) will also be given powers to issue penalties.
“We expect online wagering providers to meet community expectations,” said Human Services Minister, Alan Tudge, in an interview with The Guardian.
“The tougher laws will seriously disrupt illegal offshore providers from acting unscrupulously or targeting vulnerable Australians.
“The government is committed to taking tougher action against illegal offshore wagering providers and this bill does exactly that.”
Live Betting Causes Gambling Rethink In The Government
Racing Australia and other interests in Australia have long complained about the ways overseas sites have impinged on homegrown business. Critics of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 say that major offshore firms are making a fortune from Australian gamblers without putting the requisite tax back into the community.
Of particular concern to government ministers was the loophole exploited by gambling sites surrounding ‘click to call’ betting. Under the IGA, ‘in-play’ bets are prohibited if made online. A phone bet or wager done in person at a TAB outlet are the only ways Aussies can gamble on sports during the course of a match.
Online betting sites got round the restriction by installing special software that allowed customers to make “phone” bets via their computers. The ACMA attempted to bring William Hill Australia to book over the use of Click-to-Call software, but the matter was ultimately not pursued by the police.
The new 2016 bill would give the ACMA the powers to issue their own penalties without the AFP (Australian Federal Police) having to be brought in.
Does 2016 IGA Bill Go Far Enough?
Without a systematic re-haul of the Australian licensing system, it’s questionable whether Mitch Fifield’s bill makes it to the senate for approval.
The bill spells out little about how the government is willing or able to shut down illegal overseas sites. In the UK, a new Gambling Act was introduced which requires all offshore sites to carry a UK gambling license before operating.
The UK Gambling Commission was set up in 2005 and has the powers to issue gambling licenses to overseas companies. A 15 percent “Point of Consumption” tax is also levied against firms whose customers reside in the UK.
This gets round the problem of millions of pounds Sterling being funneled offshore and away from the government’s coffers.
The difference with the UK model is that British gambling firms are permitted to offer online poker and casino games legally. The Australian laws still outlaw online casinos and poker.
Australia has a strong dependence on pokies in pubs, clubs and casinos, It’s unlikely, therefore, that the federal government here would be willing to entertain legalising casino games any time soon.