Now Australia’s government can force internet providers to block unlawful foreign gaming websites, particularly those which don’t give out winnings to residents
The move further strengthens earlier steps by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), a national regulator, to remove the unlawful gambling sites. Since 2017 when ACMA started enforcement of stricter laws, at least 65 unlawful online gambling companies left the Australian market.
In a recent statement, ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said, “In many cases, these sites refuse to pay significant winnings, or only a small portion. Customers had also experienced illegal operators continuing to withdraw funds from their bank account without authorization.”
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Emu Casino and Fair Go Casino allegedly are probably among the first sites which will be blocked by ISPs in Australia. They are located in Curacao, a Caribbean island.
The regulator said in a statement that the ACMA focuses on illegal offshore gambling websites which target Australians who often get cheated or defrauded. According to the Herald, the new power to have internet service providers block sites will be taken only if less-severe steps are not possible.
Australia Empowers its Anti-Gambling Campaign
The original legal force used against offending sites was the Interactive Gambling Act 2001. Since then more regulatory authority was enacted. For example, the ACMA has fined companies for operating illegal sites. The government started its efforts to impose hefty fines last year.
Now the ACMA can give penalties of up to AU$1.35 million ($925,000) per day for individuals, and up to AU$6.75 ($4.6 million) for companies acting against the law. Also, the government blocked customers from getting credit from the guilty companies.
Moreover, the ACMA listed directors of the unlawful gambling sites on the Department of Home Affairs Movement Alert List, and notified regulators in the countries where the sites operate.
Quoting Communications Minister Paul Fletcher, the Herald said that the Australians still spend around $400 million a year on illegal gaming sites despite these efforts. So, the government could raise some $100 million if the gamblers were using legal venues.
It is possible that Australians who want to evade a blocked site can use a virtual private network. Their location is not disclosed that way. However, an illegal workaround such as this is improbable for many gamblers.
O’Loughlin said, “The ability to have ISPs block illegal websites will be a valuable additional weapon in the ACMA’s arsenal in the fight against illegal online gambling. We have been targeting illegal gambling services we know are active in the Australian market through complaints received and monitoring.”
Over 12 months under the increased regulatory authority, last November, 33 unlicensed gambling operators departed from the Australian market. In a recent statement, O’Loughlin said, “But we expect that list of sites will grow as we investigate more. There is little to no recourse for consumers engaging with these unscrupulous operators.”
One of the most recent alleged violators, the ACMA found in June was Lottoland Australia Pty Ltd who violated the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 by providing illegal interactive gambling services. A number of Lottoland online jackpot betting services were supposedly games of chance, which are illegal. However, Lottoland does not agree and began legal proceedings.
Also, the ACMA website posts information which can help customers protect themselves from prohibited gambling sites — especially those targeting Australians.
O’Loughlin said, “Public education is … crucial in deterring Australians from using these sites, given many illegal offshore gambling websites target Australians by using Australian themes and images, such as the Australian flag and native animals,”
She also suggests those who have used the unlawful gambling sites withdraw any money currently deposited with the operation.
Russia and China Block Sites Too
Illegal gambling sites are blocked by both Russia and China. According to the Moscow Times, in January, Google started to filter search queries in Russia as required by the country’s laws including those linked with gambling. Australia is also thinking about passing new laws for those who like to gamble legally online. Soon, a facial scan may be necessary for Australian online gamblers or those who want to watch adult content on their computers.