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vic govt approves betting at home

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    * Audio: Vic Govt approves betting at home (AM)

    Victorian punters will soon be able to place bets without leaving their couch, after the State Government approved a subscription TV wagering service where a remote control is all that's needed to have a flutter.

    Critics say it will create a crop of house-bound gambling addicts, but the company behind the system says strong consumer safeguards are in place.

    Victoria is the first state to approve the subscription TV betting system. Two Way, the company behind it, is in discussions with regulators in other states.

    Chief executive Ben Reichel says the interactive service is available only to some cable TV subscribers.

    "It provides extensive information about all of the racing available on that day - that's thoroughbred racing, harness racing and greyhound racing," he said.

    "It has weather and track information, jockeys, trainers and all of that sort of information about that day's racing."

    And punters must have a wagering account to use the service.

    "If they are an account holder they put in their account number and their PIN code and then they can place a bet through the service," he said.

    Anti-gambling activist Reverend Tim Costello says he is horrified by the cable TV betting system.

    "We should have a moratorium on providing all new forms of access to gambling at the moment," he said.

    "We are so inundated, and to actually turn every living room into a gambling den, effectively a domestic pokies den, is both foolish, and will just create a new crop of problem gamblers."

    'Just an alternative'

    Mr Reichel rejects criticism that the cable TV betting system will create new gamblers.

    "Telephone betting is already available in 100 per cent of homes. Internet betting is available in every home that has an internet connection which is well over 60 per cent of homes in Melbourne and growing rapidly," he said.

    "Our service is only available to Foxtel subscribers, which is around about 30 to 40 per cent of Melbourne homes, and everyone who can use our service can already bet by phone or internet, so it is just an alternative."

    Mr Reichel says that account and PIN numbers are needed and the racing channel can be locked out by subscribers to stop minors from using it.

    "In addition, we have extensive responsible gambling messages on screen so really our service offers more extensive safeguards than the current internet and telephone betting methods," he said.

    But Reverend Costello rejects the company's defences.

    "We hear this argument all the time. It is always said 'oh yes, but you have to have this card, you have to have this protection'," he said.

    "What we've seen is just a complete explosion that is occurring at every level and accessibility is the main issue that creates problem gamblers and there is nothing more accessible than the living room."
 
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