Australia Gambling Regulator Objects to Cryptocurrency Betting

The gambling regulator for Australia’s Northern Territory is advising its licensees that it does not favor allowing the betting of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. Local reports say the regulator is planning to issue cease and desist letters to licensees accepting cryptocurrency bets. The move comes as China—once one of the leading markets for cryptocurrency exchanges—continues to try and stamp out the trading.

Australia’s Northern Territory Racing Commission has advised its online gambling licensees that it is against the betting of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and reportedly intends to order sites trading in the virtual currencies to stop.

The Australian Financial Review reported that the commission sent emails to online sites saying that the NTRC chairman “is intending to issue a formal communique to all sports bookmakers and betting exchange operators licensed in the NT if currently transacting in cryptocurrency (for example Bitcoin, Ethereum and the like) for their wagering operations to immediately cease and desist.”

The email comes quickly after NTRC-licensed bookmaker Neds launched Australia’s first Bitcoin-based betting platform. The site had accepted deposits and pays out winnings in Bitcoin, but didn’t allow customers to convert the Bitcoins into regular currency. The site now has a message saying that the platform “is currently offline pending further instruction from NT Racing Commission,” according to the report.

The move also comes as China continues its crackdown on cryptocurrency exchanges. China is set to block all websites related to cryptocurrency trading and initial coin offerings. The ban includes foreign platforms.

China has been a center for cryptocurrency trading as it was seen as a way to circumvent government regulations on removing currency from the country. Chinese officials first shut down cryptocurrency exchanges in the country, but acknowledged that the move did not completely cut off trading on foreign platforms.

In another story out of Australia, the country’s Alliance for Gambling Reform is advocating for a ban on political donations from the gaming industry.

Recent reports found that more than A$1.5 million was donated to major political parties in 2016/17. The group’s analysis of the contributions found that there were 20 separate gambling industry donations to the federal Labor Party, totaling $330, 650. The Liberal-National Coalition received almost $1 million in donations.

Crown Resorts, Tabcorp, Clubs NSW, Clubs Australia and the Australian Hotels Association were revealed as major gambling donors, according to a report at Asia Gaming Brief.

Tim Costello, director of the Alliance, said in a press statement that gambling harm will continue in Australia until the “political funding tap is completely turned off”.

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