Regulation is a crucial part of the industry we all love and enjoy but some operators might be less than thrilled to hear that their illegal activities are no longer going to be tolerated. The Australian Communications and Media Authority has announced the first casinos to face sanctions for targeting Australian players, which is illegal.
So far, only two brands have received their marching orders from the regulator but industry observers believe that this is just the tip of the iceberg and more casinos will face punishment for their infractions.
The first brands in the firing line are Emu Casino and Fair Go Casino, both located outside of Australia. ACMA launched an investigation into them after receiving dozens of complaints from consumers. Both were found to be targeting Australian customers and as a result, the regulator has asked internet service providers in the country to block the offending sites.
ACMA chairperson Nerida O’Loughlin had this to say about the issue:
“Emu Casino and Fair Go Casino are illegal sites that target Australians, and between the two we have received more than 50 complaints about their conduct.”
“They’re happy to take your money when you lose, but people have reported to us that they refuse to pay out winnings. If you have funds deposited with these or any other illegal offshore gambling site, you should withdraw those funds now.”
The communications watchdog’s actions are a direct result of the Australian government’s move towards tackling gambling addiction and a growing rate of gambling participation. Australians lose as much as AU$400 million every year at illegal offshore gambling sites, according to one government estimate.
The move to block these two sites comes after ACMA began to flex its legal muscles in tackling illegal offshore gambling operations. Under the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001, Australia prohibits the provision of ‘interactive gambling’ to Australian citizens and the advertisement of the same. Playing these games is not an offence.
For a long while, online casino operators flouted this law because it was rarely enforced. But the ACMA has recently stepped up to take the matter in hand. In 2017, the ACMA launched new, stricter rules to deal with unlicensed online casinos. These included measures that would let the regulator go after not just the brand but the management of these companies too, with sanctions that include a travel ban into and out of Australia.
Another of the ACMA’s new powers allows them to order ISPs to block illegal sites and Emo and Fair Go are just the first to see this power in action.
ACMA chairperson O’Loughlin explained that targeting offshore companies poses significant challenges and a single measure cannot be expected to solve the problem by itself. She went on to say that blocking website access illustrates the increased reach of the ACMA and how far it is willing to go to protect vulnerable Australian players from unscrupulous operators.