Funny how ripping money off mug punters is sometimes considered gambling, but on other occasions can be just a game.

Helen Coonan told the Oz Media section yesterday all about the perplexing policy difficulties with which the government is wrestling about whether gambling might be allowed on the new digital channels.

On one hand, it would ensure Canberra would reap more from the coming auction, but on the other, says the minister:

We intend to be socially responsible and would not countenance any kind of “against the house” betting – games such as poker – in lounge rooms.

But there are some activities which may be acceptable and I am looking at ways of replicating the Interactive Gambling Act to cover the new licences.

Yet Senator Coonan already allows “against the house” betting to take place late every night on channels Nine and Ten. In fact, the dodgy dial-in “games” are a great deal worse than traditional gambling because the mugs giving money to the networks have no idea how badly the odds are stacked against them.

Media Watch had a passing swipe at Nine and Ten relieving their dumber viewers of money without reaching any conclusion and last year Victoria’s consumer affairs minister Marsha Thomson had a crack that just boiled down to telling mugs to be careful about being mugs and running up large phone bills on premium call rates of up to $5 a minute.

Says her media release:

Ms Thomson said these game shows encouraged viewers to call in for their chance to win a prize while the phone lines were free.

“Instead, when viewers do call often they are put on hold and then told they were unlucky this time and to try again,” she said.

“Repeated calling means consumers may end up parting with more of their money than they realised or intended.”

Which of course is exactly what Nine and Ten want them to do. Picking a number on a roulette wheel would seem more honest – but apparently the government is to socially responsible to countenance that.

Get Crikey for $1 a week.

Lockdowns are over and BBQs are back! At last, we get to talk to people in real life. But conversation topics outside COVID are so thin on the ground.

Join Crikey and we’ll give you something to talk about. Get your first 12 weeks for $12 to get stories, analysis and BBQ stoppers you won’t see anywhere else.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
12 weeks for just $12.