Operator of Australia’s first regulated online casino, Lasseters Holdings, has warned the Federal Government that with approximately 20 new online gaming sites being established globally each week, the cost to the Australian community of searching for, monitoring and blocking these sites would the high.
In a submission to the federal government’s study into banning interactive gambling, Lasseters Managing Director, Mr. Peter Bridge from casino en ligne, said the rapid growth of the industry and the potential integration of non-gambling services with gaming sites complicate the feasibility of effectively blocking online content.
The community would ultimately pay to find the proverbial needles in the haystack, he said.
Higher ISP charges, slower Internet performance, accidental blocks on legitimate sites and reduced confidence in electronic commerce would result from having to filter the billions of online access requests in order to find the online gaming sites.
It is unlikely that any filters would ever be 100 percent accurate also, because international online gaming operators in particular are often hidden within portals that also offer non-gambling services.
Mr. Bridge said Lasseters is investigating the reverse of this trend by making its considerable investment in its call center and financial transaction technology available to non-gambling organizations within Alice Springs.
We are considering a portal for electronic commerce for Alice Springs businesses which, for these small businesses, would provide a low cost entry to the Internet and a new way of servicing customers in remote parts of the country, he said.
However, it raises the question of how could a ban on online gaming differentiate between the provision of gambling and non-gambling services within the one site Our understanding is that it could not.
Mr Bridge said the high cost of monitoring and policing the Internet would be better invested in regulation and consumer education, and in problem gambling support services.
Gaming machines in venues and clubs are recognized through current research as the major cause of problem gambling in Australia, he said.
There is no research available on the specific correlation between gaming on the Internet and problem gambling.
If the Government spent as much time and money looking for ways to curb problem gambling with gaming machines as it is in targeting online gaming, then we would probably greatly reduce the incidence of problem gambling in our society.
Mr. Bridge also questioned how casino gaming, legal in the physical world, could be illegal in the virtual world.
It seems illogical that the same products could be illegal when transferred to what is simply a new mode of delivery, he said.
In April 1999, industry estimates reported there were around 300 online gaming sites globally. In May 2000, updated reports suggested there were more than 1,000 and forecast that in two years, there will be over 3,000 online gaming sites including sportsbooks, horseracing, casinos, lotteries and keno.
Mr. Bridge said that Australian regulated online casinos such as Lasseters Online had already established the world’s highest standards of regulation to protect the interests of players. These operational controls are applied at a player/provider level and include strict registration procedures, prohibition on credit gambling, ability to set betting limits, audit trails of all transactions, delays in receiving winnings, self exclusion facilities and hotlinks to community counseling services.
Mr. Bridge renewed calls for a central register of problem gamblers accessible by all regulated online gaming operators to ensure those people most at risk of problem gambling could be prevented from registering with online sites.
Lasseters Online was launched in April 1999 and has since attracted more than 80,000 players from across the world and turnover of approximately $134 million.