The Federal Government has announced that former New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell will lead a review into offshore online gambling sites.

Social services minister Scott Morrison, in ordering the investigation, told reporters in Canberra on Monday that there are about 30 operators that are running legal sites in Australia.

Morrison highlighted that almost 60% of the $1.6 billion online gambling industry is going offshore to more than 2,000 sites that are beyond the control of Australian regulators.

“For the vast majority of Australians, having a punt [has been] part of a recreational pastime for many generations and it’s a part of who we are,” said Morrison.

Morrison is concerned with the impact that online gambling is having on families in Australia compared to relatively controlled environments such as pubs, clubs, casinos and race tracks, as online wagering creates vulnerabilities.

This has led to a significant rises in problem gambling rates.

Morrison hopes that the review will recommend appropriate measures to protect consumers but he said that he would not pre-judge the review.

O’Farrell will consult with representatives from the racing industry, professional sports, wagering organisations and the state and territory governments, while there will also be opportunities for the public to be involved.

Racing Australia released a statement of support for the review into illegal offshore wagering, in the face of a rapidly changing and evolving on-line landscape.

“If left unchecked, racing authorities believe that the integrity of Australian racing and sports is at considerable risk,” the statement said.

“Racing regulators must have access to all betting transaction information for integrity assurance purposes, wherever that betting takes place.

“Racing Stewards and investigators must be able to follow an audit trail to ensure integrity.

“Moreover, the responsible gambling policies of Governments, including those protecting minors, matter nothing to illegal offshore bookmakers.

“At the same time, Government and industry revenues are being affected as illegal offshore bookmakers pay no taxes or product fees.”

Racing Australia has put forward key objectives that it would like to see addressed by the review, including:

1. Safeguard integrity in racing and sport.

2. Secure racing and sports’ revenue.

3. Protect against problem gambling.

4. Ensure minors are not able to access wagering or gambling on the internet.

image5. Guard against proliferation of online gambling (eg, casinos, pokies).

Recommendations are to be given to the federal government by December 18.