26/06/2001 - 22:00

Interactive Gambling Bill delights racing industry

26/06/2001 - 22:00


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THE Federal Government’s decision to exclude sports betting and lotteries from its Interactive Gambling legislation may have failed to impress opponents of the Bill, but has delighted the racing industry.

Interactive Gambling Bill delights racing industry
THE Federal Government’s decision to exclude sports betting and lotteries from its Interactive Gambling legislation may have failed to impress opponents of the Bill, but has delighted the racing industry.

And the amendment has caused at least one Perth online wagering company to breathe a sigh of relief after the viability of a purpose-built harness and greyhound racetrack was secured.

Communications Minister Rich-ard Alston moved to exclude wager-ing, sports betting and lotteries from the online gambling legislation. Casino-style gaming and advertising of online gambling will still be outlawed under the legislation.

Mr Alston said the amendments to the Bill would address the concerns of the racing industry.

“The Government remains concerned about the impact of Internet wagering, but recognises that this concern needs to be balanced against the impact of a ban on a bona fide and long-established industry in Australia” he said.

However, the Federal Opposition and the Internet Industry Association are still critical of the legislation.

Internet Industry Association chief executive Peter Coroneos called for the Bill to be scrapped entirely.

“From a technical viewpoint, the Bill will damage industry partici-pants who are forced to try to make it work while delivering no tangible benefit to end users,” Mr Coroneos said.

“We therefore call upon the Senate to vote it down entirely.”

Applecross-based Aussie Online Ltd is planning to broadcast harness and greyhound racing over the Internet from a purpose-built track in South Australia. The viability of the operation, which also includes the SA TAB and Aussie Online’s subsidiary Cyber Raceways Ltd, was in doubt before the Government amended the legislation.

Aussie Online marketing manager Michael Field said Australians would have been prevented from taking part in an activity in their own country while viewers in the US, UK and Asia would be allowed to bet on the races.

“It would seem ridiculous that the races would be held in Australia and Australians couldn’t bet on them,” Mr Field said.

“The fact that wagering and sports betting is now exempt from the Bill has given us greater opportunities in Australia, within our local markets, to broadcast this service and for people to be able to wager online on an Australian product.”

He said online wagering differed from Internet casinos and gambling.

Wagering was an agribusiness that injected revenue into the Australian economy and employed trainers, jockeys and stewards, Mr Field said.

“A person developing a single piece of software, like a blackjack game, there’s only one thing that is going to happen there and the money is going to go to a single operator,” he said.

Mr Field agreed with Mr Coroneos’ comments that the web could be used to limit problem gambling, intervening to limit the amount of time or money punters spent gambling, something physical poker machines could not do.

“We have discussed intervention like that with the South Australian TAB, our partner in this,” Mr Field said.

“We will really be guided by them as to what is an appropriate response to that. But it is something that we have raised with them and we are conscious of the fact that we see our product as an entertainment product and we don’t encourage problem or addictive gamblers to continue in that behaviour.”

Aussie Online hopes to have Australia’s first straight-line racetrack operational by November. The races, held in the South Australian town of Waikerie, will be broadcast to audiences in Australia and the UK.

The two kilometre-long track is purpose built for Internet transmission, according to Mr Field.

“We are running these races at night and reducing the detail on screen,” he said.

“The only vision that is captured is the horses running. It minimises bandwidth and advertising is actually placed in digitally after the event.”

Straight-line greyhound racing is already in operation in England. Aussie Online plans to develop reciprocal links with UK online racing company 24 Dogs later in the year.


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