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Wednesday, 8 December 2004
Page: 150

Senator Allison asked the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, upon notice, on 17 November 2004:

(1) What is the status of the referral by the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) to the Australian Federal Police (AFP), following complaint 03CE001251J made in March 2003, of gross breaches of law under subsection 8A(2) of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001, particularly since the complainant was advised by the AFP in August 2003 when taking formal statements that the AFP would proceed to prosecution of Betfair.

(2) If no charges have been laid, why is this the case.

(3) Does the Minister intend to refer to the ABA or the AFP the complaint made by Mr Tim Ryan that Betfair breached the law under subsection 8A(2)(a) of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 by taking a bet on 19 June 2004 on the US Golf Open after the event had started.

(4) Has there been any investigation of the claims that Betfair continue to offer betting, contravening subsection 8A(2)(a) of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001; if so, have charges been laid; if not, why not.

(5) Is Betfair registered for the goods and services tax (GST) in Australia; if so, when did it register.

(6) Is it correct that the GST was payable by Betfair on revenues received from Australian residents using their wagering platform; if so: (a) was the GST paid; and (b) if the GST was not paid, what action has been taken in respect of that non-payment.

(7) Have any money laundering matters in relation to betting exchanges and unregulated cross-border wagering come to the attention of the Government; if so: (a) have any such matters been referred to the AFP; and (b) have any been charges laid.

(8) Has the Government considered banning cross-border gambling, except where mutual recognition of jurisdictional authority and extradition provisions are in place; if not, why not.

(9) Has the Government considered a ban on betting exchanges because they provide opportunities for individuals who are unlicensed, and therefore unregulated, to lay or bet against contestants; if not, why not.

(10) Given that the Government considered amending the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 to make all exemptions under the Act (not just wagering) subject to the holding of an Australian state or (internal) territory licence at the time of its passage through the Parliament but did not do so because there was little time for consultation, will the Government now consider doing so.

(11) Why is the Government permitting offshore wagering operators to shelter behind the subsection 8A(2) exemption of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 s8A exemption, allowing these operators to provide services to Australian residents (in New South Wales and Western Australia) that are illegal for those residents to use.

Senator Coonan (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) and (2) The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has provided the following answer:

This matter is under investigation. No charges have yet been laid.

(3) and (4) The Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (IGA) establishes a complaints-based legislative framework to address community concerns about the availability and accessibility of interactive gambling in Australia. The objective of this legislation is to ensure new interactive gambling services do not exacerbate the level of problem gambling in Australia. As part of the framework established by the IGA, the ABA administers a complaints scheme under which Australian residents or companies trading in Australia are able to complain to the ABA if they believe that Australians can access prohibited Internet gambling content.

Mr Ryan emailed my predecessor on 19 June 2004 providing a commentary on a press conference involving representatives of religious and welfare organisations, and of Betfair. Mr Ryan raised a range of concerns including problem gambling, money laundering and allegedly illegal activities of Betfair. In relation to this last point, Mr Ryan notes that he has already made a complaint to the ABA and the AFP.

I note that Senator Allison and a number of other members and senators received the same email from Mr Ryan.

If Mr Ryan wishes to make a complaint and has evidence of a breach of the provisions of the IGA, then, as he has done in the past, he should provide that evidence to the appropriate authority, in this case the ABA.

(5) I note you have asked the same question of the Treasurer. I refer you to his answer.

(6) I note you have asked the same question of the Treasurer. I refer you to his answer.

(7) The Attorney-General's Department has provided the following answer:

In Australia money laundering issues are generally addressed by the Federal Transaction Reports Act 1988 which places account opening and suspicious transaction reporting obligations on the financial services sector. In accordance with privacy principles, strict secrecy and information access provisions govern the release and circulation of information received under this legislation. Accordingly, it would be inappropriate to make comment on operational matters.

(8), (9) and (10) The IGA was established to prevent the escalation of problem gambling resulting from new interactive gambling services. The previous Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts released the report of the statutory review of the operation of the IGA on 16 July 2004. The review was conducted by the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts and examined a range of matters, including the growth of interactive gambling services and their social and commercial impact. Betting exchanges were considered in this context. The review found that betting exchange services retain the basic characteristics of a wagering service and do not represent a significantly new form of gambling.

The review also concluded that betting exchange operations do not pose any greater risk of exacerbating problem gambling than traditional Internet wagering services also permitted under the current legislative framework. As a result, the Government decided not to take any regulatory action specifically in relation to betting exchanges. The Government considers that, as the licensing and regulation of gambling services is primarily a matter for the states and territories, they should pursue these issues through their existing licensing frameworks.

(11) Subsection 8A(2) of the IGA provides that an `excluded wagering service', to which the offence, complaints, and advertising ban provisions do not apply, does not include continuous wagering services.

The IGA is not intended to exclude or limit the operation of a law of a State or Territory to the extent that that law is capable of operating concurrently with the IGA (s.69 refers). If any breach of state and territory laws has occurred, it is the responsibility of the relevant state or territory to investigate the matter.