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Thursday, 22 July 2004

Uniting Church urges government: 'Hold your nerve' on internet gambling

The Uniting Church in Australia today expressed deep concern that problem gambling will increase if new Internet gambling activities are allowed in Australia.

Uniting Church National President, Rev. Dr Dean Drayton, said reports in today’s media suggesting a merger between PBL and Betfair could signal an increase in problem gambling in Australia.

“The Federal Government has banned casino style internet gambling but its decision to allow Internet betting exchanges to operate offshore has opened the door to worrying mergers like the one suggested between PBL and Betfair.

“At the heart of this merger is an attempt to set up new deals with Australian sporting bodies like Cricket Australia, which, until now, have been off limits for Internet gamblers,” he said.

“This merger would make gambling more accessible and appealing by opening the door on a whole new range of sports gambling opportunities. This would inevitably lead to an increase in problem gambling.”

“Government’s have a moral responsibility to ensure that residents are protected from undue risk, especially those whose existing gambling is excessive and causes them harm.

“A 2002 report by UK gambling support service, GamCare showed the number of clients with sports gambling problems increased from about 2% of all clients to over 25% of clients in just one year after exchanges were introduced.

“In the 2002 - 2003 year Australians gambled $128.3 billion and 300,000 Australians were identified as having gambling problems. 1

“The Internet makes gambling easier and less personal and allows problem gamblers to remain anonymous,” he said.

"The Uniting Church calls on the Federal government to hold its nerve, maintain the current ban on Internet gambling in Australia and resist overtures by BetFair, PBL Broadcasting and other Internet-based gambling providers," Rev. Drayton said.

Media contacts: Reverend Dean Drayton, 0400 354 237