Gambling Policy and Regulation
E-Brief: Online Only issued March 2001; updated September 2001
Dr Kim Jackson, Analysis and Policy
Social Policy Group
Gambling policy in Australia has traditionally been the responsibility of the States rather than the Commonwealth. State and territory governments regulate and provide gambling services and rely heavily on the ensuing revenue. However, recent developments have seen the Commonwealth take a more active role in this area. Public concern over the impact of gambling on Australian society prompted the Commonwealth to institute an inquiry by the Productivity Commission and its conclusions have fuelled further debate.
In addition, the rapid adoption of new communications technologies by gambling industries has attracted Commonwealth interest, as this is an area which falls within its constitutional responsibilities. The development of online gambling has significant implications for regulatory mechanisms, revenue collection and community welfare. This has prompted the Federal Parliament to pass legislation prohibiting Australian Internet gambling sites from providing services to Australians.
This brief provides annotated links to documents and sites on the Internet of relevance to these developments.
Commonwealth Policy and Legislation
On the 16 December 1999 the Prime Minister, the Honourable John Howard MP, released a statement announcing Commonwealth support for a national approach to problem gambling. This would involve the establishment of a council of Commonwealth, State and Territory ministers to focus on the following:
- stopping the further expansion of gambling in Australia;
- the impact of problem gambling on families and communities;
- Internet gambling; and
- consumer protection.
The full text of the Prime Minister’s press conference on this subject is also available.
On the 19 May 2000 the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston, and the Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Jocelyn Newman announced that the Commonwealth was examining legislation to impose a 12-month moratorium on the introduction of new interactive gambling services. On the 17 August 2000 the Government introduced the Interactive Gambling (Moratorium) Bill 2000. The Bill and related documents can be obtained from this page. A Bills Digest prepared by the Parliamentary Library is also available. The purpose of the Bill was to prohibit for one year those interactive gambling services that were not being provided before 19 May 2000. The Bill passed the Senate on the 6 December 2000 after receiving the support of a number of Democrat and independent senators. The Interactive Gambling (Moratorium) Act 2000 was assented to on the 21 December.
On 27 March 2001 Senator Alston announced that the Government would introduce legislation to prohibit Australian gambling services from providing online gambling to Australian residents. Other press releases from the Minister on the subject of interactive gambling can be obtained from this page.
The Interactive Gambling Bill 2001 was introduced on 5 April 2001 and was assented to on 11 July 2001. The Bill and related documents can be obtained here, and the Bills Digest can be accessed from this page. The Interactive Gambling Act 2001:
- prohibits interactive gambling services from being provided to customers in Australia; and
- prohibits Australian-based interactive gambling services from being provided to customers in designated countries; and
- establishes a complaints-based system to deal with Internet gambling services where the relevant content (prohibited Internet gambling content) is available for access by customers in Australia; and
- prohibits the advertising of interactive gambling services.
The National Office for the Information Economy (NOIE) maintains a detailed page on interactive gambling, including a summary of the legislation with other links and documents.
The Productivity Commission Inquiry
On the 26 August 1998 the Commonwealth Treasurer, the Honourable Peter Costello MP, directed the Productivity Commission to report on the performance of the gambling industries and their economic and social impacts across Australia, including their impact on the retail, tourism and entertainment industries, and on Commonwealth and State/Territory Budgets. The Terms of Reference for the Inquiry can be obtained here.
The inquiry was undertaken by Gary Banks, Chairman of the Productivity Commission, and Robert Fitzgerald, who was President of the Australian Council of Social Services from 1993 to 1997.
The final report was submitted on the 26 November 1999. The Productivity Commission has an index page providing access to the final report and many related documents. Of particular interest are:
- the Commission’s key findings; and
- the summary of the report.
Senate Select Committee Report on Online Gambling
On the 31 May 1999 the Senate Select Committee on Information Technologies announced that it would inquire into:
- the nature, extent and impact of online gambling in Australia;
- the feasibility of controlling access to online gambling, especially by minors;
- the adequacy of State and Territory regulations in relation to online gambling; and
- the need for federal legislation.
The Committee reported on the 16 March 2000. The report, A review of online gambling in Australia can be obtained from this page. It recommended that:
- Federal, State and Territory governments work together to develop uniform and strict regulatory controls on online gambling with a particular focus on consumer protection;
- pending the implementation of these consumer protection policies no further online gambling licences be granted; and
- State and Territory governments contribute a fixed percentage of their gambling revenue to a national education campaign on gambling and to agencies that assist and rehabilitate problem gamblers.
The report also recommended many specific measures to protect consumers and assist problem gamblers.
The NOIE Inquiry
On 7 July 2000, Senator the Hon. Richard Alston, Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, announced that the Government would conduct a study into the feasibility and consequences of banning interactive gambling. This inquiry was undertaken by the National Office for the Information Economy (NOIE). Its report was released on 27 March 2001, with the following major conclusions:
- there are several technical methods that could potentially be used to implement a ban on interactive gambling based on Internet content control, but none would be 100 per cent effective in preventing Australians’ access to interactive gambling services.
- Implementing a ban on domestic interactive gambling service providers would require legislative change only.
- A ban via financial controls is not practical.
- Economic modelling commissioned for the study indicates that a ban may have modest or small economic benefits for Australia in terms of restricting access to a harmful activity and possible aggregate benefits for State and Territory taxation revenue.
The full report can be obtained from here (pdf file).
State and Territory Regulatory Authorities and Policies
Australian Capital Territory
The ACT Racing and Gambling Commission is an independent statutory authority responsible for controlling and regulating all gaming, racing and betting activities in the ACT to ensure they are conducted honestly, with integrity and free from criminal influence. It has a comprehensive website with pages on legislation, interactive gambling, problem gambling, a gaming industry Code of Conduct, the casino, gaming machines and other forms of betting.
New South Wales
The NSW Department of Gaming and Racing is responsible for the proper conduct and balanced development of the gaming, racing, liquor and charity industries in NSW. Its website has pages on responsible gambling, legislation and other matters.
The NSW Casino Control Authority licenses and supervises the operations of the casino.
The Racing and Gaming Authority administers gambling legislation in the NT. The NT Gaming Machine Commission is responsible for licensing gaming machines. Neither body has a website, although information on their operations is available from the Annual Report of the Authority.
The Queensland Office of Gaming Regulation regulates machine gaming, casinos, art unions, lotteries and keno in Queensland. It has a comprehensive website pages dealing with topical issues, legislation, statistics, information on interactive gambling and other policy matters.
The Gaming Supervisory Authority is responsible for ensuring that there is effective supervision of the operations of casino and gaming machine licensees in SA. It is the function of the Office of the Liquor and Gaming Commissioner to provide the supervision of licencees.
The Tasmanian Gaming Commission regulates and controls gaming in Tasmania. It is an independent statutory authority but receives operational support from the Gaming Operations Branch of the Tasmanian Department of Treasury and Finance.
The Victorian Casino and Gaming Authority regulates and monitors Victoria’s gambling activities. It has a comprehensive website with sections for legislation and policy, research, frequently asked questions, media releases, licensing and other matters.
On 1 March 2000 the Minister for Gaming released for public comment Responsible Gaming: A Consultation Paper. The paper outlines proposed legislation and seeks input into the process of regulating the industry.
The Office of Racing, Gaming and Liquor administers WA legislation dealing with these areas and carries out many of the operational functions of the Gaming Commission, including the provision of licensing, inspection and audit functions in respect of both casino and permitted gaming services.
Other Reports and Papers
The Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) paper, Internet Gambling (June 1998) examines the policy options concerning this issue. Papers for the Conference on “Gambling, Technology and Society: Regulatory Challenges for the 21st Century” (May 1998) convened by the AIC in conjunction with the Australian Institute for Gambling Research are also available from this page. They include discussions of policy options, legal issues and responses, State views and technical measures.
The Report on Gaming Legislation and Regulation in British Columbia (January 1999) has much useful information on the regulatory situation in Canada. It has chapters on the legal framework, recent developments, social policy and emerging issues.
The US National Gambling Impact Study Commission website provides access to the Final Report and Recommendations of the Commission (June 1999) and other research reports on gambling in the United States.
Gambling on the Internet is a report presented to the 1999 Conference of the International Association of Gambling Regulators. It consists of two parts: ‘The Legal Perspective’ by Thomas N. Auriemma of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, and ‘The Regulatory Perspective’ by Bill Lahey of the Victorian Casino and Gaming Authority.
In the United Kingdom an independent review body was established to design a new regulatory structure for the gambling industry. The Gambling Review page contains the Final Report and links to other documents.
Australian Gambling Statistics
The major sources for Australian gambling statistics are the Tasmanian Gaming Commission and the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The former organisation, in conjunction with the Centre for Regional Economic Analysis at the University of Tasmania, produces the annual Australian Gambling Statistics. This data is not directly available online, although figures derived from the series can be obtained from the following:
- the Internet magazine LotteryInsider.com, which maintains data on gambling expenditure and turnover;
- Appendix S of the Productivity Commission Final Report, which gives turnover, per capita expenditure and revenue for each state and territory for selected years from 1972-73 to 1997-98.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ site contains a large range of information on Australian gambling. This is in the form of press releases, some articles, and the main features (or summaries) of their statistical series publications. They include:
- Gambling Industries, Australia (Preliminary) (main features);
- Gambling Industries, Australia (main features);
- Casinos, Australia (main features).
The Australian Institute for Gambling Research contains fact sheets, news, links and a review of regulatory structures. The Institute is based at the University of Western Sydney.
An Australian bibliography on gambling compiled by J. Morrison, R. Lynch and A.J. Veal is available from this page.
The Problem Gambling Research Program of the School of the Social Work, University of Melbourne investigates the effects of problem gambling on individuals and their families as well as their relationship to community support services.
The European Association for the Study of Gambling provides information on European studies of gambling and related subjects.
The Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming at the University of Nevada, Reno is an academic body which aims to broaden the understanding of gambling and the commercial gaming industry.
The National Center for Responsible Gaming is a US site devoted to funding research on problem and underage gambling.
Problemgambling.Com has news, feature articles and other resources relating to problem gambling.
The National Opinion Research Center (NORC) is a non-profit corporation affiliated with the University of Chicago. It has conducted a Gambling Impact and Behaviour Study.
The two hundred and ninety submissions to the Productivity Commission inquiry into Australia’s Gambling Industries constitute the most exhaustive set of views from individuals and public interest groups on this subject.
The Australian Medical Association, Victoria has a page on gambling issues. This looks at problem gambling from a public health perspective.
The Public Health Association of Australia has a page detailing its policies regarding gambling and health.
The Financial and Consumer Rights Council has a gambling page with links to a number of useful studies and articles. The Council is a Victorian non-profit organisation which works to ensure that people have access to fair treatment as consumers in the market place.
The International Association of Gaming Regulators site provides access to occasional papers and news stories. Their membership list contains links to most of the gambling regulatory bodies in the world.
The National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling is a US site providing Internet resources for anti-gambling campaigners.
The American Gaming Association represents the commercial casino entertainment industry.
The Interactive Gaming Council is a forum for the Internet gaming industry.
News and Media
Lottery Insider has an archive of Internet gaming news.
The Rolling Good Times has a large database of gambling news stories, particularly with regard to interactive gambling.
Showhand is an online magazine reporting on the gaming industry in Australia and Asia.
Gamblink.com has an archive of news stories and press releases.