Australia is heading towards getting new laws, legislation... the works, to cover the online gaming - gambling sector, following the global trend.
Media Man and Gambling911 continue to probe, as the global war for online gambling domination heats up.
It appears that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages for most, certainly in the Asia Pacific - Australian sector at this stage, is the general feeling from the vast majority of people we speak to. Legal eagles, company CEOs, webmasters, media entrepreneurs, financial analysts, even most politicians, say that legalisation is the the way forward.
As Media Man and Gambling911 have previously covered, when things become illegal or go into "grey area", they go often go "underground". Often the industry will thrive, but will be at least somewhat hidden by public view. When this happens some consumer protection can be lost. Gambling and other "vices" still exist, and word is that Sydney's Kings Cross could be on the verge of become a bit of a gambling mecca, albeit attracting a somewhat different patronage to those who frequent our friends at Star City Casino and Crown Casino in Melbourne. Network Nine's TV smash hit show 'Underbelly' has of course brought some underground industries back into the public spotlight, but that's another story.
New laws to officially permit gaming companies to offer online gambling products and services in Australia are "inevitable," as the federal government stands to benefit from the tax brought into government coffers, corporate bean counting outfit KPMG says.
The firm has released a report into the global growth of online gaming suggesting the global market will grow by approximately 42% to $32 billion by 2012 from 2008 levels.
The Australian Productivity Commission states Aussies spent $790 million on online gambling through overseas websites in 2008! Media Man recalls that 2008 was a big growth year for business, building up the website portfolio into double digits to keep up with consumer and b2b demand.
"While illegal and invisible in official records, online gaming appears to have grown very rapidly, and could amount to 4 per cent of gambling expenditure," the commission writes in its recent draft report on Australian gambling.
The commission recommended the Aussie government liberalise online gambling by allowing Aussie companies to provide internet poker and casino games to local customers. Online wagering as well as sports betting is already permitted by law.
Of course, all of the current excitement about Australia's online gaming and gambling industry has attracted the ire of bible bashers and anti gaming campaigners.
Senator Nick Xenophon says the Australian government should resist the lure of extra tax revenue.
"If you open the floodgates to online gambling you will see a new tidal wave of problem gamblers, particularly younger people. Governments shouldn't cave into the temptation of regulating this on the basis that they can get taxes".
Both Australian and (quality) global gaming giants are also expected to benefit, through greater consolidation of the industry. Gibraltar based PartyGaming, the world's leading gaming and igaming company looks to be in a strong position, just coming of a deal with France based PMU, and Richard Branson's Virgin Games also has an outstanding record of ethics, customer service, b2b and giving back to society. At present Branson's Virgin Games does not accept Australian players, while PartyGaming casino, poker, betting, bingo and sports brands can. Playtech, Sega, William Hill and others are expected to make a play, but Media Man's top international picks are Virgin and PartyGaming. Betfair is also poised to soon add casino and poker to their impressive sports betting portfolio. Betfair is half owned by Australia's casino king, James Packer, which won't go astray. Packer also enjoys a long time relationship with many Hollywood A-listers and money men, with Tom Cruise being featured in PartyGaming's Top Gun and Mission: Impossible online games, Stallone in 'Rambo', Travolta in 'Saturday Night Fever' and Arnie in 'The Terminator'. Marvel Entertainment has also strategically embedded themselves in the online gambling sector. Marvel's 'Thor', 'Captain America' and 'Wolverine' - 'X-Men' are rumored for game remakes, and PartyGaming and Playtech have "branded" slot games at high priority. Australia's Hugh Jackman, featuring in a couple of Marvel slot games, has not spoken on the igaming - online gambling industry to date. Jackman also enjoys a friendship with News Corp king of the world, Rupert Murdoch. PKR enjoy a b2b relationship with Nuts and FHM, however it is unclear if Nuts and FHM magazines containing PKR Poker advertising have appeared in Australian news agencies.
Australians currently rate in the world's top ten Forbes, Hitwise and Google lists for online gambling, offline gambling, movie attendance and comic books.
Some inside the Australian gambling industry believe it is unlikely the government will move to liberalise online gambling during an election year, as the government has so many fires to attend to in the meantime like health reform, illegal boat people, not to mention the so called "blacklist" and proposed Australian internet filter, all said to quite likely increase the odds of the Australian Government loosing the next election. One punter bet $10,000 that Labor will loose.
Some Australian anti-gambling entities advise that regulation of the igaming sector could have some benefits. Legalising the service would enable authorities to better control it and protect "problem gamblers", who are already gambling online via offshore websites.
Senator Xenophon interestingly opposes the Australian internet filter, but states policing offshore gaming websites is possible with "political will".
Readers... gamblers, entrepreneurs and media owners... what do you think? Are you with the "coalition of the willing" to use George Bush's expression, or are you for outlaws? Tell us what you think in the forum.
*Greg Tingle is a special contributor for Gambling911
*Media Man http://www.mediamanint.com is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company, gaming being just one of over a dozen sectors they cover.
*The writer owns shares in Crown Limited and Virgin, and has conducted b2b with PartyGaming, Virgin and Betfair