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Coalition Government introduces legislation to combat illegal offshore wagering

The Coalition Government has today introduced legislation into the Parliament to combat illegal offshore wagering.

The Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 (the Bill) amends the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (IGA) to implement key parts of the Government's response to the 2015 O'Farrell Review into Illegal Offshore Wagering (the Review).

The Review estimated that between $64 million and $400 million is spent on illegal online wagering services, with a further $100 million annually lost in taxation revenue and product fees which are important to help fund support services for problem gamblers. Some illegal offshore providers are also  linked to crime syndicates.

The problem is not just the connection to crime syndicates and lost revenue. There are greater opportunities for sports corruption with offshore providers. All Australian licensed providers have agreements with the sports bodies so that when there are irregular bets associated with unexpected sport  outcomes, they can be interrogated. This is not the case with offshore providers.

On 28 April this year, the Government released the Review and our response which accepted 18 of the 19 recommendations in full or in principle.

The Bill is the first stage in implementing the Government's response to the Review. The response consists of three parts:

  1. crack down on illegal offshore gambling providers;  
  2. clarify the law by prohibiting 'click to call' in-play wagering services to respect the original intent of the Interactive Gambling Act; and  
  3. establish a strong National Consumer Protection Framework (NCPF).  

The Bill introduced today will implement the first two points by:

  • Amending the law to make it clear that it is illegal for overseas gambling companies to offer gambling products to Australians unless the person or company holds a licence under the law of an Australian State or Territory. Currently, the law is ambiguous as to whether or not it is illegal for offshore    wagering companies to provide gambling products to Australians if they are not licenced in Australia;  
  • Empower the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) with new civil penalties, complementing the existing criminal penalties powers held by the Australian Federal Police, and allow ACMA to be responsible for the entire complaint handling process from receipt to enforcement; and  
  • Introduce other disruption measures to curb illegal offshore gambling activity, such as placing company directors or principals of offending gambling companies on the Movement Alert List so any travel to Australia can be disrupted.  

In addition, the Bill will clarify the law by prohibiting 'click to call' in-play wagering services to respect the original intent of the Interactive Gambling Act.

In regards to the NCPF, Minister Tudge is meeting with State and Territory Ministers on 25 November to discuss the NCPF, with measures including (but not limited to) a national self-exclusion register for online wagering, a voluntary pre-commitment scheme for online wagering; and a prohibition of lines  of credit being offered by online wagering providers.

Minister Tudge said that many Australians enjoy a punt but we want to make sure there are sensible protections in place. 'Currently hundreds of illegal gambling services are easily accessible on the internet and we know that people are more likely to get into trouble online—2.7 per cent of interactive  gamblers are problem gamblers compared to 0.9 per cent of all gamblers.

'We expect online wagering providers to meet community expectations. The tougher laws will seriously disrupt illegal offshore providers from acting unscrupulously or targeting vulnerable Australians.

'The Government committed to taking tougher action against illegal offshore wagering providers and this Bill does exactly that.' Minister Fifield said the stronger enforcement mechanisms for the ACMA will crack down on providers that flout the law. 'The new powers will allow the ACMA to implement civil  penalties for breaches of the IGA provisions and make it easier for people to complain and for those complaints to be investigated. 'We will also create name and shame lists to be published online which will make it clearer to consumers which operators are providing illegal services,' Minister Fifield  said.

Media Contacts: Rachelle Miller (Minister Tudge): 0475 804 886 Geraldine Mitchell (Minister Fifield): 040 280 476.