ONLINE POKER: Aussie banks warn payment clamp down is “unworkable”

The Australian Bankers’ Association and credit card company Visa have warned the Federal Government that any attempt to use the payments system to clamp down on online gambling would be unworkable.

As reported in the Fairfax Media in recent days, Australian Bankers’ Association chief executive, Steven Munchenberg, told the joint select committee on gambling reform that trying to restrict transactions was “not straightforward”.

The committee is investigating a bill introduced by the independent Senator Nick Xenophon to restrict financial transactions on prohibited online gambling sites (which includes offshore online poker sites). Similar legislation was introduced in the USA in 2006.

“(If) Australia was identified as a jurisdiction where payment obligations may not be fulfilled in a certain and timely manner, it is possible that merchants and online service providers will refuse to accept business and payments from customers designated as originating from Australia,” Munchenberg said.

“This would have a significant impact on the contestability of Australian businesses as well as the ability for Australian consumers to purchase online goods and services.”

The committee heard Australians could reach 92 per cent of the world’s online gambling sites even though the Interactive Gambling Act banned online gambling sites from accepting money from Australian residents.

Despite the restrictions, it is estimated Australians spent more than AUD $968 million last year on illegal online casino, poker and bingo sites.

The committee will release a report on Internet gambling at the end of the month. A member of the Federal Government’s advisory council on gambling, Alex Blaszczynski, told the committee that the legislation needed to be updated.

“Australians can easily access offshore Internet gambling sites and have little recourse if they lose their money or experience unscrupulous treatment,” Professor Blaszczynski wrote in his submission.

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