The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has taken actions to block illegal offshore gambling websites Emu Casino and Fair Go Casino after the announcement of the Government’s new website blocking plan last week. The authority has requested Australian internet service providers (ISPs) to take off the websites following the receipt of over 50 customer complaints. The regulator found out the online casino-style games offered on the websites are in breach of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001.
Review of the Interactive Gambling Act
In 2015, former New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell conducted a review into the Interactive Gambling Act and proposed the ban of websites not licensed in Australia, as well as the promotion of their activity. Since then, ACMA’s powers have increased significantly and the authority has now the right to impose civil penalties against offenders. The O’Farrell review also resulted in the launch of the National Consumer Protection Framework for Online Wagering launched in November 2018.
Emu Casino and Fair Go casino are the first targets
ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said that Emu Casino and Fair Go Casino are functioning illegally and players using them are risking to lose their money unlawfully, since both brands refuse to pay out gains, according to customer reports. Ms O’Loughlin urged players who have funds with these websites to withdraw them immediately. ACMA chair added that chasing illegal offshore companies proves a difficult task and each case requires the implementation of various measures.
“Blocking access to websites sends a strong message that the ACMA can and will take action to stop illegal operators from targeting vulnerable Australians,” Ms O’Loughlin added.
Education before law enforcement
Customers are able to check a register of the gambling operators that have a license to carry out activity in Australia and can also make a complaint if a licensed service provider is offering credit or in-play betting. The issue with offshore gambling websites is that they are not regulated according to the local standards and do not pay taxes to the country, which might result in huge tax losses each year.
Cumbersome procedures, is it worth it?
However, blocking websites is not an easy process and requires the cooperation, and in some cases the coercion of Internet Service Providers. ACMA Chair or ACMA Deputy Chair or an ACMA Senior Executive Service officer must give green light to each request to an ISP to disrupt access to online services. Also, ISPs should receive specific technical information to carry out the request, while in the meantime illegal websites might change their name or domain, thus disappearing with the money of players.
Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Hon Paul Fletcher said:
Our Government is moving quickly to block these first two illegal offshore gambling websites
“Illegal gambling websites are preying on Australians and can have devastating effects on people’s lives. The new website blocking scheme is an important way in which the Government is helping keep Australians safe online,” added Minister Fletcher.
The National Consumer Protection Framework for Online Wagering features 10 measures to protect individuals, which include prohibition of lines of credit, payday lenders, customer verification, restrictions on inducements, account closure, voluntary opt-out pre-commitment scheme, activity statements, consistent gambling messaging, staff training and national self-exclusion register.