Papua New Guinea legalizes online gambling

With a unanimous 61-0 vote, the government of Papua New Guinea has passed a new bill legalizing casinos and Internet gambling.

Engineered by Prime Minister Michael Somare and passed unopposed in PNG's last session of parliament yesterday, the bill is titled "The Gaming Control Bill 2007," and sets the country up, Somare hopes, as the next new offshore gaming hotbed.

And with the online gaming market in the Asia-Pacific region expected to hit $7 billion by 2010, it's not a minor decision for the country's struggling tourism industry and future economic development.

"It is essential," Somare told ABC Radio Australia show PM, "that we keep instead with global development in industry so that the appropriate regulatory measures are in place and that the industry in Papua New Guinea is competitive with other countries."

Only foreign customers will be allowed to access online gaming facilities based in PNG, but the gaming law also allows each of the country's 20 provinces to build one brick-and-mortar casino, and hold the license for it for 10 years.

The casino will then be taxed at 20% of the gross profit, plus 5% tacked on for a community benefit levy.

The law also created a National Gaming Control Board, which will oversee all gambling activities and monitor the social repercussions for its citizens.

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