The Office of Responsible Gambling in New South Wales, Australia, has issued an appeal to gamblers not to be tempted and bet at offshore casino and betting operators, citing poor safeguards and risk of gambling-related harm.
Australian Consumer Protection Body Urges Players Not to Use Offshore Operators
With interest in online gambling increasing during the global coronavirus outbreak, another Australian consumer protection body has urged players not to opt for unlicensed, offshore websites. The New South Wales (NSW) Office of Responsible Gambling (ORG) has released a statement cautioning players about the high-risk profile of such operators that don’t meet the same regulatory standards as those imposed by national regulators.
Natalie Wright, director at OGR, argued that with most sports suspended and land-based entertainment venues, such as pubs and clubs closed down, many Australians were tempted to turn to online gambling. A recent study by AlphaBeta confirmed Wright’s reasons to be wary of the offshore gambling sector, with Australians reportedly betting online 67% more compared to pre-lockdown levels.
Even though Australia has banned a number of offshore operators, and compelled legitimate international companies to quit voluntarily, the country has not quite brought gambling under control.
Offshore Means Losing Your Money, Wright Says
In her appeal, Wright stressed the higher risk associated with losing consumers’ funds at offshore online sites. Because these operators didn’t meet eye-to-eye with NSW regulations, there were no guarantees that the companies wouldn’t refuse a payout based on an arbitrary provision, Wright said.
Equally important, Wright and OGR drew consumers’ attention to the fact that such offshore operators do not uphold the same level of care when it comes to gambling-related harm. While most grey operators have “responsible gambling” pages in place, they seldom act on those or seek to monitor the behavior of players for excessive gambling.
“Overseas gambling websites are illegal in Australia, and people who use them face additional risks than when they gamble with a licensed Australian operator,” Wright reminded.
Wright reminded consumers of what common misleading signs offshore operators used to establish trust at first sight. Many operators would tailor their offer specifically to Australians, Wright said. They would use the national flag or native animals as mascots to make their offer more believable.
However, such websites are still subject to prohibition under the Commonwealth Interactive Gambling Act 2001, and the lack of regulations therein means that people can expect little to no protection mechanisms in place.
Spanning the Full Spectrum of the Experience
In addressing the specific products offered, Wright said that illegal operators will run the whole gamut of games and betting options, from casino-style games, such as slot machines and scratchcards to lotteries, keno, and live sports betting.
She added that anyone looking to place a bet should only use Australian operators, citing consumer safeguards, expenditures limits, responsible gambling measures, and more. The NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority has already acted against some established and generally trustworthy operators, including Ladbrokes Australia and Neds.
Both companies were accused of running illegal gambling products and fined $135,770, the highest penalty issued by the regulator to date. According to the regulator, the companies had offered promotions to NSW residents without the necessary authorization. Before that, Ladbrokes was fined back in 2015 for offering players inducements to gamble.