The Australian federal government has ordered a new review of its gambling industry, including an investigation into offshore online gambling sites.
While 30 operators run legal, licensed sites in Australia, the bulk (over 60%) of the country's $1.6 billion online gambling industry is spent at offshore sites. The majority of these 2,000 sites, which are beyond the control of the Australian gambling authorities, are licensed in other jurisdictions and ensure that gamblers from Down Under are well protected.
However, the government hopes that recommendations will be made to protect consumers who are affected by illegal websites.
Social Services Minister, Scott Morrison said that online gambling operators would be reviewed in an larger investigation undertaken by the former premier of NSW, Barry O'Farrell.
Purpose of New Gambling Review
Speaking on Monday, Morrison said that "for the vast majority of Australians, having a punt is part of a recreational pastime for many generations and it's part of who we are."
Having said that, the minister aims to bring down problem gambling numbers, and he hopes that the review will recommend measures to protect consumers.
The review will include an investigation into the economic impact of offshore sites on Australia's gambling industry, and will look at how the public can become better educated about what the government perceives as the "dangers" of gambling.
Within the coming weeks, the review board will consult with representatives of the racing industry, betting organizations, professional sports bodies, state and territory governments and the general public.
All the information will be taken into consideration, with recommendations expected to be presented to the federal government before the Christmas season.
Gambling Ads May be Targeted
It is expected that the board will also examine one of the most contentious topics in Australia's gambling industry - that of gambling ads on TV.
Some media outlets report that there has been some speculation that the Abbott government would consider an outright ban on gambling spots during sporting events. This would deal a blow to sports such as Australian rules football and rugby, which rely heavily on this advertising.
However Morrison dismissed all speculation. "People are reacting to something that hasn't even been announced," he said. "The government has no preconceived ideas in this area. We undertook to look at it, and we will engage in good faith."