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Federal opposition acts to combat problem gambling.

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Tue, 3rd June 2008


The Hon Bruce Billson MP Shadow Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy

The Federal Opposition is concerned about the despair, economic and emotional hardship and profound impact on families caused by problem gambling.

As a result, last night in Federal Parliament I introduced the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2008. This Private Member's Bill was motivated by the failure of the Rudd Labor Government to act to stop an insidious new form of Pay TV gambling.

The Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2008 seeks to prohibit the roll-out of new gambling technology in the form of subscription television based interactive gambling.

It rejects the suggestion by proponents and gambling revenue-addicted state Labor governments that this new form of gambling is no big deal and is simply an extension of telephone and internet betting.

The Bill makes its absolutely clear that the limited exemption to current interactive gambling prohibitions, permitting wagering over the phone or internet, does not allow for interactive subscription television gambling with all the sound, sights and stimuli of race day in the family lounge.

The Bill also obliges the Rudd Labor government to conduct an open and extensive examination of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001, including wide public consultation, to ensure it can adequately address new gambling and converging technologies and reflects contemporary community standards.

Due to Mr. Rudd and his Communications Minister Stephen Conroy turning a blind eye to their state Labor mates, Pay TV gambling has commenced in Victoria with racing and many suspect it is just a matter of time before pressure mounts to extend it to betting on football codes, other sports and even in virtual casinos across the country.

This Bill will test the moral decency of the Rudd Labor Government, which is more interested in spin, deception and 'Rudd's War on Problem Gambling' headlines than it is in doing anything practical or of substance to combat it.

The Commonwealth's 2004 Review of the Operations of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 expressed concern that interactive gambling, including television-based platforms ''would potentially normalise aberrant gambling behaviour and exacerbate the social harm associated with problem gambling''.

Australia doesn't need to gamble with the additional adverse social and economic consequences that accompany new remote gambling modes. Enough is enough.

The Opposition welcomes the support of the Victorian Interfaith Gambling Taskforce and its interstate affiliates, Clubs NSW and anti-gambling campaigner Rev. Tim Costello, for this Bill.

Herald Sun racing columnist Matt Stewart (23/4/08), under the headline 'Too many ways to lose', reflected the Opposition's stance when he wrote: ''There's a fine line between betting with convenience and tempting fate ...They're moving in at Dapto. All you have to do is press the blue button. An hour later you've done a grand and you haven't left the couch. Ouch.''

This Bill is designed to guard against the 'ouch on the couch'.