October 27, 2009

Lifting of Oz egaming ban set to spur further growth

The Australian market looks set for significant expansion after the government’s independent advisory body on gambling policy recommended lifting the country’s eight-year-old online gaming ban.

The Productivity Commission last week recommended the Australian government repeal the 2001 Interactive Gambling Act (IGA) to allow operators to offer poker and casino products to Australian residents, subject to a strict regime of consumer protection.

The report reached its recommendation after concluding of the current ban under the IGA: “The long-run consequence of prohibition may be higher problem gambling risks and a loss of commercial opportunities and tax revenue in Australia.”

The IGA made it an offence to provide poker and casino to Australian residents, leading to an estimated total of AU$790m being spent on offshore sites last year.

Australian corporate bookmaker Centrebet’s deputy managing director, Michael McRitchie, said the proposed switch from unregulated online gaming to regulated gaming represented “a win-win” for stakeholders in the Australian market.

“The draft report demonstrates that prohibition doesn’t work, and isn’t working. Its proposals, if adopted, would increase customer protection and harm minimisation procedures, allowing the government to generate funding to assist with problem gaming,” McRitchie told EGRMagazine.com.

As well as allowing Australian wagering operators to increase revenues through cross-selling existing customer bases into gaming, the lifting of the IGA would also operators to increase in-running betting volumes, as the Act currently only allows in-play bets to be placed by telephone.

The Productivity Commission arrived at its draft conclusions after receiving detailed submissions from 264 organisations, including corporate bookmakers, sporting clubs, sports representative bodies and totaliser monopolies.

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