Australian Bitcoin Gamblers to Lose Anonymity under New Legislation?

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Several days ago, the Australian government published a documented response to its advisory body, the Productivity Commission, where they outlined they will be changing current legislation to regulate business dealing with digital currencies like Bitcoin. The document contains positive answers to several recommendations proposed by the Commission regarding digital currencies and anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism policies and legislation.

Australia is the latest in a list of countries looking to enforce more control over the flow of Bitcoins and their use, after Japan already recognized the cryptocurrency and the Russian government saying they are open to the idea as well.   Thus far, Bitcoin has been one of the limited options Australian online gamblers looking to avoid the law’s eye had, but that might change soon with the new legislative changes.

Government Supports New Regulation Recommendations

As the official document reveals, the Government supports the recommendation to amend the 2006 Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter-Terrorism Financing (CTF) Act to enable the AUSTRAC, the government’s financial intelligence body, to regulate digital currency businesses in regards to these matters, which also implies regulating Bitcoin exchanges operating in the country.

In the document, the government calls on a previous statutory review on the AML/CTF law by the Minster of Justice where the changes were proposed, which reviewed existing measures tied to the FinTEch industry. Thus, after considering the review and recommendations and international approaches taken by Canada, or the UK, the government decided to extend the legislation to include digital currency businesses.

This, the document states, would “encourage” investments and innovation as it would ensure service providers that they would have more security and certainty in working with digital currency businesses, while in the same time lowering the risk of financing terrorism and laundering money with the “emerging technology”.

Another change which the government agrees with is to update the definition of money in relevant GST (Goods and Services Tax) legislations to include digital currencies like Bitcoin. This, they say, is because they agree that consumers shouldn’t be paying the GST twice if they buy products or services with cryptocurrencies.

New Bitcoin Regulations and Gambling in Australia

Australia is one of a few cases where online gambling regulations are a bit of a grey area. The local government has taken multiple measures to restrict online gambling and prevent offshore operators from offering gambling services to Australian players, the more recent of which was to outlaw live sportsbetting and poker online after previous legislative changes left some loopholes that operators could work with as well as restricting gambling advertising during live sport events.

The tighter stance on gambling has lead several notable Poker and gambling operators to withdraw from the Australian market, leaving Australian gamblers to look for other options or use Bitcoin casinos to play under the radar. However, should the proposed changes take effect, Bitcoin exchanges will have to introduce more control over who buys and sells Bitcoin.

Per the AML/CTF Act, business are obligated to identify and verify the identity of their customers, as well as keep records of transactions and electronic fund transfers, among other things. The measures were introduced to prevent illegal financial activities, but they also imply taking out the anonymity out of Bitcoin funding, per the proposed legislative changes.

May 10, 2017: • No Comments

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