Illegal foreign-based gambling websites which prey on vulnerable Australians and often refuse to pay out winnings will be blocked online in the latest crackdown by the Morrison government.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority will use its new powers from Monday to order internet service providers to block offshore gambling companies that target Australians who end up being cheated or defrauded.
Online sites such as Emu Casino and FairGo Casino, which operate out of the small Caribbean island nation of Curacao and are deliberately branded to appeal to an Australian market, will be among the first to be blocked.
The measures are the third and final new laws which were recommended in a review of interactive gambling by former NSW premier Barry O’Farrell in 2015.
The report led to crackdowns on the industry which included giving ACMA the power to impose civil penalties on offending companies, prohibiting lines of credit being offered by wagering companies and nationally-consistent protections for interactive wagering customers.
More than 65 illegal companies have pulled out of the Australian market since 2017 when the ACMA started enforcing new illegal offshore gambling rules.
Under the new suite of measures, ACMA will investigate suspect sites and where other enforcement actions are not feasible, refer those in breach of the Interactive Gambling Act to internet providers to be blocked.
Federal Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said illegal overseas gambling companies were preying on Australians by targeting them with misleading incentives.
“Too often these offshore operators are defrauding Australians – and their websites typically provide very few – if any – harm minimisation controls,” Mr Fletcher said.
He said while the regulator had a range of powers to protect Australians from illegal gambling services, including issuing formal warnings and seeking civil penalty orders, it could be difficult to take direct action against “faceless companies” with “no legal presence on our shores”.