Australia Government To Postpone Online In-Play Betting Decision Until After Election

Australia’s government plans to stall a decision on whether to authorize online in-play sports betting until after this year’s federal election but could take more immediate action to punish international online gambling operators.


On Wednesday, Human Services Minister Alan Tudge briefed governing coalition parliamentarians on the findings of the government’s review of the 2001 Interactive Gambling Act (IGA), which was led by former NSW premier Barry O’Farrell.


Tudge told the Herald Sun that the report and the government’s response likely won’t be publicly released for a few weeks, but the newspaper claimed the response would include a blanket ban on wagering on credit, a harmonization of state-level promotional offer rules, as well as a national self-exclusion scheme for problem gamblers.


On Thursday, The Australian reported that the most controversial element of the IGA review – whether to relax the restriction of in-play sports betting to telephone and in-person wagering – won’t be addressed until after the next federal election, which by law must be held by January 2017 but will likely take place in the second half of 2016.


The prospect of legalizing online in-play wagers has divided the domestic betting industry, with Northern Territory-licensed online bookmakers and most sports bodies in favor, while those opposed include domestic operators Tatts and Tabcorp, horseracing stakeholders and the usual anti-gambling scolds.


But leaked poll data shows Aussie voters are likely to punish politicians who approve online in-play bets, a prospect that appears to have persuaded the government to postpone a decision until after votes are cast.


However, The Australian claimed the government would take immediate steps to close the legislative loopholes that allowed online operators including William Hill, Ladbrokes and Bet365 to launch voice-activated smartphone apps designed to circumvent the existing in-play ban.


To help offset the revenue hit this crackdown will impose on domestic operators, the government is reportedly planning to immediately amend the IGA to explicitly ban internationally licensed online operators from accepting wagers from Aussie punters. The government will grant additional powers to the Australian Communications and Media Authority to ensure the amended law can be enforced, likely by ordering Aussie internet service providers to block operator domains.


Domain-blocking schemes have proven ineffective in most ‘walled garden’ markets but the government is reportedly mulling other moves to “disrupt’ international operators, which presumably include restrictions on financial transactions with unapproved gambling sites, another tactic that has achieved only partial success in prohibition-minded markets like the US.


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