[LINK] On-Line Gambling - An Editorial That Makes Sense!
Fri, 13 Oct 2000 13:12:06 +1000
The Editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald on Thursday 12 October showed
that the efforts of linkers and their ilk bear fruit - it just takes time.
The vote in the Senate against the Federal Government's proposal to impose
a 12-month moratorium on new Internet gambling sites indicates the
difficulty governments have in imposing a regulatory regime on Internet
activities. Labor senators opposed the proposal. Coalition senators
supported it, although Senator Bob Brown, the Tasmanian Green, said after
the vote that he had heard that the Prime Minister, Mr Howard, was the only
supporter of the legislation in the Cabinet. Senator Brown initially
supported the thrust of the legislation. But during the debate he said he
was unhappy with the Government's decision not to support an amendment that
would allow the Tasmanian and Victorian TABs to establish online facilities
to the same level as the other States.
The Democrats, too, were split. Most Democrat senators voted against it.
The Democrats, in fact, unsuccessfully moved for a three-month moratorium
during which national standards on Internet gambling could be developed.
This worthwhile amendment was lost. Two Democrats, Senator John Woodley and
Senator Lyn Allison, voted with the Government and against their colleagues.
>From a public policy perspective, there is merit in governments doing all
they can to restrict the availability of gambling outlets. A Productivity
Commission inquiry has found that there are 290,000 Australians who are
problem gamblers and whose combined losses exceed $3 billion annually. Mr
Howard was right to cite these alarming findings in his call for action to
stop further expansion of gambling outlets. He specifically mentioned
Internet gambling. How to turn this rhetoric into a reality, though, is not
Government reliance on revenue raised by taxing gambling outlets can cloud
or complicate policy formation. Senator Brown's vote possibly reflected the
dilemma raised by conflicting needs, to raise revenue and to limit social
ills by restricting gambling. In NSW, Internet gambling is illegal. But
this stance may be conditioned more on protecting the interests of the huge
poker machine industry in NSW than from opposition to Internet gambling.
There is now talk from NSW officials about issuing online gambling
licences. The attraction for the Government is the millions of dollars in
revenue these licences could bring in.
The Internet, which inhabits cyberspace, not territorial space, is not
susceptible to heavy-handed governmental bans. Any policy has to
acknowledge this reality. Gambling operators can move overseas as easily as
they can move interstate. If Internet gambling were banned in Australia,
gamblers would still have the choice of about 1,000 companies operating
outside. As far as Internet gambling is concerned, therefore, governments
may have to accept that the social policy goals behind the desire to limit
or ban gambling can only be achieved when individuals are persuaded to
Bans won't make gamblers behave responsibly. Discipline will have to be
internalised since attempts at external discipline will be futile.
Governments may find their best approach is to concentrate on ensuring that
operators are not corrupt, that they pay their taxes and that they support
appropriate privacy and harm minimisation programs, including education
programs for problem gamblers.
[We now have the leader-writer of the only quality paper left in the
country - which is therefore somehow by definition innately conservative -
arguing that regulation makes good sense, but that prohibition, whether or
not it's desirable, won't work.
Along the way, it mentions the (to me, somewhat odd) positions adopted by
Bob Brown and by the Democrats, without taking the ritual cheap journo's
shot at the irresponsibility of the Senate cross-benches.
DON'T UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES PASS THIS MESSAGE ON TO ANYONE; because it
would probably result in the leader-writer, whoever it may have been, being
relieved of his or her responsibilities ...]
Roger Clarke http://www.anu.edu.au/people/Roger.Clarke/
Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, 78 Sidaway St, Chapman ACT 2611 AUSTRALIA
Tel: +61 2 6288 1472, and 6288 6916
Visiting Fellow Department of Computer Science
The Australian National University Canberra ACT 0200 AUSTRALIA
Information Sciences Building Room 211 Tel: +61 2 6249 3666