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Australia, With 160,000 Problem Gamblers, Will Toughen Laws

Australia said it will toughen rules for gambling companies like Tatts Group Ltd. and Tabcorp Holdings Ltd. after a report found the nation has 160,000 problem gamblers.

The government will establish a system that allows people to decide how much they’ll spend before they start playing electronic machines and will maintain its on-line gaming ban, Families Minister Jenny Macklin said today.

Australia has as many as 160,000 severe gamblers and a further 350,000 are at “moderate risk,” the Productivity Commission said in a report. The commission gave the government a list of 48 recommendations for gambling, which its estimates has a social cost of A$4.7 billion ($4 billion) a year.

“There are a significant number of recommendations,” Macklin told reporters in Canberra today. “We are establishing a select committee and we will discuss these issues.”

Macklin wouldn’t say whether the government supported the commission’s recommendation to establish an A$1 bet limit on slot machines and cap the one-off outlay at A$20 instead of the current A$10,000. It will consult with state governments about “harm minimization,” she said.

The government will also work with other nations about a global regime for on-line gaming, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said.

“We will be talking to the U.S. administration, they have very strong laws,” Conroy said. “We will see what we can do to get a global response to what is breaking out.”

Gamblers had A$19 billion in losses in 2008-09, or an average of A$1,500 per gambler, the Productivity Commission said. That A$1,500 is “easy to lose” in an hour on electronic machines, the report said following a two-year investigation.

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