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Internet Casinos Criticized in Australia for Bonus Offerings


by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor
February 3, 2009

        With any online casino, users are offered a sign-up or welcome bonus. While the is the norm in the internet gambling industry, Australian online casinos have taken heat for offered millions of dollars in free bets to drive in a customer base. The country has currently placed a ban on poker machine venues offering such bonuses to players and is in the planning stages of implementing “safe cards” to limit the amount of money spent on gambling.
   
        The moral majority was none too happy with recent online casino offerings, however. An internet gambling website, Centrebet e-mailed 13,000 users in Queensland to notify them of a $10 bonus offer with a renewal on membership cards. Additionally, Sportingbet in Australia offered users free wagers of up to $200, Betfair offered $50 in free wagers to tennis punters and Sports Acumen offered $50. Although this is regular practice with any online casino, the recent promos have caused concern that it will add to problem gambling in the country.

         The argument has always existed that an extra incentive to gamble online will lead to problem gambling, especially in times of economic turmoil. Anti-gambling activist, Senator Xenophon, has asked that the Australian government ban online casino bonuses - an extreme measure and potential blow to the industry.
   
         Campaigning for “social justice,” Reverend Tim Costello has asked that research be conducted as to the extent of problem gambling caused by internet casinos, noting that over $5 million was lost to state gambling every day last year. Costello adds, “It’s like saying to an alcoholic, here’s a free drink… There is no question that it is dangerous. I think it’s wrong.” It can be said that this is an unfair generalization - in that all online gamblers are gaming addicts or that it is an unfair or that no venue provides free alcohol in Australia.

         Costello has been involved in a number of protests against social vices, including alcoholism and drug abuse. He is a member of Baptist World Aid, the Australian Earth Charter Committee, the Interchurch Gambling Taskforce and the Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Foundation. Costello has also spoken in favor of fun control in Australia. He has won the Australian Peace Prize awarded by the Peace Organization of Australia. Costello has commented in the past that “gambling should be something that you are forced to jump a few hurdles to go and do,” a mantra that contradicts the free betting opportunities of internet casinos.

         The attempts to ban internet casino offerings have so far been to no avail, as Australian gamers continue to cash in on free wagers. Additionally, many internet gambling companies have been given permission to advertise such bonuses in Victoria and NSW. Betfair, an online casino, sports book and poker room, was the first sponsor in history of the Victorian horse races.