INTERNET GAMING company Betfair was in the High Court last week bringing a constitutional challenge against restrictions on the use of betting exchanges by Western Australian customers under a new WA law.
Based in Tasmania, Betfair is arguing that the WA laws contravene the principle that all trade between the states should be unhindered.
Jamie Nettleton, a gaming law specialist and partner at Addisons, said these WA laws are the latest in a series of state-based restrictions on internet wagering.
These laws are part of the complex regulatory regime applying to internet gambling that exists in Australia following the Federal Government’s intervention in the regulation of the industry in 2000 with the Interactive Gambling (Moratorium) Act that prevented the introduction of new interactive gambling services from 19 May 2000 until 18 May 2001.
“[The moratorium Act] stunned everyone. It meant that a lot of people who had invested and people who were looking to Australia to invest found it was all put on hold. At that time there was a real industry in Australia that was leading the world with a huge amount of Australian expertise. But due to that Act a lot of parties looked for somewhere else to go,” Nettleton said.
The consequence was Australia, initially at the forefront of online gaming regulation, got left behind as operators went to other jurisdictions where they felt they had more certainty.
Australia now has a regulatory regime that is cumbersome and difficult to understand, with a mixture of prohibitions and restrictions at both the state and federal levels.
“The challenge is that it is so incredibly regulated that the laws are different in respect of each sector of gaming, in each state and territory that one really needs to be a specialist to understand not just how they work but how they should work. It’s something I’ve realised over time that you need that degree of specialisation or you risk being caught out unwittingly,” Nettleton said.
However, should Betfair win its High Court case that could change, said Nettleton.
“If the case were won by Betfair, it calls into question similar restrictions on interstate betting existing not just in WA, but also in other states and territories. If those restrictions are considered unenforceable, it might make it more attractive for those jurisdictions to open up their licensing regimes. So it could have a significant impact,” he said.