Australians will be banned from gambling on online casinos -domestic or offshore – under a dramatic 11th hour deal between the Government and the Greens late last night.
The passage of the Government’s Internet gaming ban is likely to upset Australian online gambling operators, such as Mr Kerry Packer, who have moved their operations offshore to escape a domestic ban.
The deal, made on the day before Federal Parliament goes into winter recess, means that in six months’ time interactive gambling operators will not be able to enforce debts owed by Australians gambling on their sites.
The move represents a backflip for the Government, as the Communications Minister, Senator Alston, has previously maintained that the fact gambling sites were overseas would be sufficient deterrent to punters.
But it will allow the Government to dodge Opposition charges that its Internet gaming ban was inadequate because it would still expose Australians to offshore sites.
Under the deal, Australians will, however, be able to wager on racing and other sports on domestic and offshore sites, with the Greens withdrawing amendments to ban the placing of such bets offshore.
The Situs Judi Slot Online Terpercaya casino ban was a major win for the Greens’ Senator Bob Brown, but the 33-to-28 vote saw the Democrats split.
Senators John Woodley, Meg Lees and Lyn Allison voted with the Government, while the party’s leader, Senator Natasha Stott Despoja, her deputy, Senator Aden Ridgeway, and Senators Vicki Bourne, Brian Greig, Andrew Bartlett and Andrew Murray supported Labor.
Along with Senator Brown, One Nation’s Senator Len Harris and the Independent Senator Brian Harradine supported the Government.
In a further twist in the gaming saga, Australia’s only operating Internet casino, Lasseters Online, has threatened High Court action following Wednesday’s additional amendments secured by the Greens which may prevent Australian operators from catering to offshore Internet gamblers, and impose fines.
The managing director of the Northern Territory-based Lasseters, Mr Peter Bridge, said he was seeking legal advice on whether those amendments were constitutional, or if they could be challenged as an abuse of ministerial power under the Communications and Crimes Act.
“Our understanding is that we may have a claim for compensation under a High Court challenge,” Mr Bridge said. “It may also be subject to action through the World Trade Organisation, given that it restricts our right to international trade.”
He likened the policy to stopping tourists from entering pubs, clubs, casinos and racetracks in Australia.
Lasseters Online generates $14.3 million in revenue but says that only 37 of its 160,000 customers are Australian. It had earlier said it would be unaffected by the legislation and simply planned to block Australians from using the Web site.
The online casino – the first to receive a State government licence – was taken by surprise by the changes yesterday.
Mr Bridge said Lasseters already stops Internet users from registering if they come from countries that prohibit online gambling, but many countries were now moving towards regulation rather than banning the industry.
A new report on Internet gambling by the research company Datamonitor found that revenues would reach $US6.6 billion in the United States and Europe in 2001, nearly doubling to $US13.6 billion by 2005.