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Clubs Look for Control of Expanded Online Gambling

Given how hard the clubs industry has fought against attempts to regulate local gambling and any proposed mandatory pre-commitment scheme, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they fall on the side of liberalizing gambling laws in Australia. What is a little more surprising is the level of control the clubs seem to want over any proposed online casino system, considering their generally sceptical views of internet gaming.

At the moment, Australian companies are not permitted to offer most forms of online gambling to their customer, with the notable exception of sports betting. Given that bookmakers already have an online betting infrastructure in place, many have expected that they would take a leading role in any new online gambling offerings allowed by the government – such as a five-year trial of online poker, which has been reported as being one of the likely regulations to be put into place in the near future.

But Clubs Australia sees things a little differently. They have submitted a report to the government review program that says that clubs would be the most effective operators for any online casino gambling allowed by the government.

A Local Solution

In their submission, Clubs Australia points to their belief that they would be in the best position to minimize any harm done by online gambling.

Such a model would at least feature existing club gambling policies,” the submission said, “such as a ban on credit card betting, a ban on inducements to gamble and a ban on advertising to non-club members.”

Of course, whether or not they’ll outright say it, the clubs industry knows that there’s big money to be made from having control of the online gambling industry. According to a recent study by German research firm Academicon, nearly 130,000 Australians played online poker in 2010. According to many, this may be a lower-bound estimate, as some studies have found more than 300,000 active online poker accounts originating from Australia.

This means a lot of potential revenue: both for the sites themselves, and for the government in the form of tax revenues. According to a model produced by Clubs Australia, punters in Australia could spend as much as $17.9 billion on online casino sites over the next decade. That could earn the government as much as $4.7 billion in tax revenues, and – if clubs were put in charge of these sites – another $34 million could be raised for community funding efforts.

Tepid Support

Despite these numbers, though, Clubs Australia says they aren’t exactly in favour of letting Australian firms run online poker or casino sites. Much like the pre-commitment schemes, many club owners fear that online gambling could draw money away from local sports clubs, many of which rely on the earnings they make from their pokies to remain in business. However, allowing them to run the online gambling systems themselves would make the most of the situation – at least in their eyes.

We strongly believe that if the federal and state governments choose to go down [the path of allowing online casino games], then the safest way is through a club-based, not-for profit-model,” they said in their submission.