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Australia to close in-play betting loophole as part of wider gambling reforms

The Australian government issued its response today to the recent review into illegal offshore wagering, setting out a number of measures that will be introduced to combat problem gambling and unlicensed operators.

The government has accepted 18 of the 19 recommendations contained in the O'Farrell review, which found that as much as AUD$400m is gambled with illegal offshore operators, resulting in lost revenue, weaker consumer protection and heightened sports integrity concerns.

The biggest blow to licensed operators will be the decision to close a loophole under which they have offered in-play betting to customers via click-to-call.

The government said that it does not intend to expand the in-play betting market in Australia by legalising the activity and would instead introduce legislation as soon as possible to close the click-to-call loophole, which it described as “breaching the provisions and intent of the interactive gambling act”.

It will also introduce a national self-exclusion register to enable players to opt out of all interactive gambling, as well as a voluntary pre-commitment scheme and a requirement for operators to keep players informed about their gambling spend.

Offering lines of credit for online gambling will also be banned.

In order to combat illegal operators, the government says it will seek to disrupt travel to Australia by directors or principles of illegal gambling providers, while the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) will be empowered with new civil penalties, including against agents and affiliates of unlicensed operators.

It will also seek to introduce voluntary ISP and payment blocking against illegal sites.

Senator Alan Tudge, Minister for Human Services, commented: “Many Australians love to gamble, but we want to make sure there are sensible protections in place. The online environment has the potential for people to get themselves into serious trouble.

"We expect online wagering providers to meet community expectations,” he said. “The tougher laws will seriously disrupt the illegal offshore providers from acting unscrupulously or targeting vulnerable Australians."

Senator Mitch Fifield, Minister for Communications, added: “The new powers will allow the ACMA to implement civil penalties for breaches of the IGA provisions and we will also create name and shame lists to be published online which will make it clearer to consumers the operators who are providing illegal services.”

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