Australia’s media police, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), have spent the past several years cracking down on illegal gambling sites that target Aussies. No license, no entry is their motto, and a number of sites have been blocked, although exact figures are a little uncertain. The latest attempt to clean up Australia’s online gaming segment comes after the ACMA has discovered 18 new illegal sites, which will now be expected to be blocked by the country’s Internet Service Providers (ISP).
To date, according to the ACMA, 222 offshore sites have been blocked from crossing Australia’s virtual borders since the agency began its efforts nine years ago. When it discovers an offshore site is targeting Australians, the ACMA sends a request to ISPs for these to refuse access to the questionable sites. The entity describes these blocking requests as just “one of a range of enforcement options” it has at its disposal and adds that it is a great way to “alert the public to illegal gambling services through the messaging that appears when there is an attempt to access the site.” In addition to those the ACMA has had blocked, more than 100 have voluntarily stepped away from the Australian market, according to the agency.
The latest group to be added to the blacklist is composed of Syndicate Casino, 7 Bit Casino, Casino Nic, Fast Pay Casino, iLucki, King Billy Casino, Woo Casino, BitStarz, Loki Casino, Golden Star Casino, Gunsbet, Spinago, Joo Casino, Bet Chain Get Slots, Joka VIP Room, King Johnnie and Wild Card City. The AMCA adds in its statement that users of any of those sites should withdraw their funds now, or face leaving them untouchable should ISPs block access (and assuming gamblers haven’t figured out a workaround).
The ACMA was given far-reaching authority to control what it deems to be unlawful web activity with the Telecommunications Act of 1997 and the subsequent Interactive Gambling Act of 2001 (IGA). Through that legislation, it can ask ISPs to remove gambling websites that are found to be conducting activity for which it isn’t licensed, including offering prohibited interactive gambling services, providing gambling services without a license in the country or publishing ads to market services that are not licensed in the country.
Curiously, lawmakers went out of their way in the IGA to address gambling and politics, explaining that political advertising that has a relationship with gambling is fine. Section 61BB of the legislation explains, “(1) To avoid doubt, if:
(a) something (the advertisement) does not promote, and is not intended to promote, any particular designated interactive gambling service or services; and
(b) the advertisement relates solely to government or political matters;
the advertisement is not a designated interactive gambling service advertisement for the purposes of this Part.”
Based on that, it would appear that politicians can use gambling activity in the background of advertising, as long as it isn’t the focal point of the ad.