$1.1 million moratorium finally unleashed

After initially indicating it was only considering such a move, the Federal Government has announced today that it will impose a 12-month moratorium on the rollout of new gambling services. The legislation will be introduced in the Spring session of Parliament, but will retrospectively apply to all services operational after May 19th, 2000.

The legislation, alluded to in recent months by Government ministers, effectively halts the introduction of all interactive gambling services not presently offered in the Australian web space.The ban applies retrospectively to cover licences issued on or after May 19th, the date when the Government announced it was considering such a move.

The legislation will apply to all Australian gambling service providers, regardless of whether they target Australian citizens or not, will apply to the date a new interactive gambling technology or service is introduced, rather than when the licence was issued. The legislation will cover all forms of gambling online, but excludes telephone betting and online stock trading, for instance.

The Government intends to carry out further research into interactive gambling, planning to use the next 12 months to conduct its investigations. The legislation will be enforced by the Australian Federal Police, with penalties of up $1.1 million per day applying to services that breach the moratorium.

When the intention to consider a moratorium was first raised by the Government on April 19th, The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston issued a statement critical of State and Territory moves to issues licences, saying "Given the widespread public concern about the detrimental social impact of gambling, it is eminently sensible to impose a short pause in the expansion of these new interactive gambling services", adding that the pause would the feasibility and consequences of banning such services to be investigated further.

The Government intends to introduce legislation banning online gambling altogether, Senator Alston's department today confirming as much, saying that the Commonwealth "Remains disposed to a permanent ban on interactive gambling and has asked the States and Territories to cooperate with the investigation into such a ban".

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