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Australia set for online gaming overhaul

Around AUS $700 million annually is thought to head out of the country to unregulated casino and poker sites, prompting officials to commission a report on the idea of opening up the local market.

Australia does permit gambling online, including horse racing and sports betting, but it is illegal for companies based in the country to set up internet gambling firms, including the likes of poker and Casino Games.

Statistics show Australians spent AUS $18 billion on gambling from 2006 to 2007, with internet wagering involving a small but growing portion of the total.

The Productivity Commission, an independent government-funded body, has put together a new report saying laws on Australian gaming businesses should be loosened so the market can be properly controlled and taxed.

According to the Financial Times, the Commission said "In its unregulated form, online gaming is available 24 hours a day, allows credit betting, has no intrinsic restrictions on bet sizes, has no capacity for venue staff to observe and assist people in trouble, reaches new groups of people who may be vulnerable to the medium (including those under age), and may not have any regulatory oversight to ensure probity."

The commission concluded loosening the legal grip on the local sector could open up competition and improve choice for consumers, while opening up tax opportunities for the government.

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