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Thursday, 07 June 2012 08:09

Tony Abbott Promises to Block Online Casino Games in Australia

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Australian opposition leader Tony Abbott has added his support to independent Senator Nick Xenophon's stance against the legalisation of online gambling.

Following the earlier release of the interim report into the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001, Tony Abbott has vowed to oppose any efforts by the government to legalise online gambling, saying that it is a new frontier of gambling that would be a 'dark cave' placing people addicted to casino games beyond help.

The Opposition Leader clarified that he was not against gambling, but was against giving greater gambling options, especially those that targeted young people. 'If it goes ahead, every computer is a casino, every smart phone is a poker game, and that's just not on as far as the Coalition is concerned,' he told reporters in Canberra. He added that he was most concerned about the solitary nature of online gambling placing addicts beyond help, saying 'If you are gambling on your smartphone, if you are gambling on your computer, you are absolutely on your own.'

Online gambling in Australia is somewhat of a grey legal area; the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001 made it illegal to offer online gambling services whilst still allowing a grandfather clause for the existing online casinos at the time. However, it is not illegal for Australians to gamble online and the market is proliferated with casinos hosted overseas who offer their services to Australians but who, since they are based overseas, are unafraid of Australian prosecution. To date, no casino has been prosecuted for offering online gambling in Australia.

Senator Xenophon, who has been outspoken in his stance against gambling, accused the government of looking at online gambling as its next big revenue source. Prime Minister Julia Gillard suggested that if Abbott truly cared about problem gambling, he would support the Government's poker machine reform legislation. When questioned about his opposition to these reforms, he called an abrupt halt to the press conference.