As revealed earlier this week, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is set to start forcing local Internet services providers to suspend certain foreign gambling websites. The decision follows the 2016 review of the Interactive Gambling Act commissioned by the former premier of New South Wales (NSW), Barry O’Farrell.
The above-mentioned review was aimed at deriving more information regarding the risks associated with the illegal gambling websites that did not provide their customers with the same level of protection ensured by licensed gambling businesses on the territory of Australia. Two years ago, in 2017, the ACMA was given the power to ban such websites and suspend any online advertising materials that could promote them.
Unfortunately, the offshore gambling sites continued to flourish, especially some of them that are not regulated in correspondence to the country’s legal framework. Such websites do not pay tax, too. According to data provided by Paul Fletcher, a Federal cyber safety minister, the tax that is lost by Australia from not receiving tax revenue from these websites amounts to approximately AU$100 million on an annual basis.
Also, for the time being, the Interactive Gambling Act bans online gambling providers in Australia from offering any form of gambling other than lottery sales or sports betting. However, illegal offshore gambling websites offer casino-style games, online slot machines, poker, etc.
The Actual Number of People Who Use Offshore Gambling Sites Could Be Quite Small
However, according to some analysts, the extent of the problem associated with the offshore gambling sites may be exaggerated.
At the time when the O’Farrell review was compiled, no more than AU$400 million wеrе being wagered on offshore sites. So, considering the fact that local residents lost about AU$22 billion to gambling back in 2015, the illegal offshore gambling companies represented no more than 2% of the local gambling market.
In addition, in the last few years, it became clear that most gambling losses generated by Australian gamblers are from poker machines. According to reports over AU$12 billion was lost on pokes in 2016-2017. The amount lost on sports betting was about AU$1 billion, and the losses on race wagering were worth AU$3.3 billion.
Moreover, the 2019 survey on the overall gambling activity in the state of NSW showed that approximately 0.5% of the population plays online casino games, and about 0.3% bet on online poker. None of these activities could be legally offered online on the territory of the country, so the number of people who are actually using the services of foreign gambling websites may be very small.
So, according to some analysts, the newly-announced effort of the ACMA under which access to illegal gambling websites would be blocked by local Internet providers, could be effective to a certain extent, but it would probably hardly help local people leave their gambling habits behind. Apart from that, the ban would require the cooperation of Internet Service Providers (ISPs), because the illegal gambling websites would have to first be identified. Also, specific technical information would have to be provided to the ISPs, in order for the ban to be facilitated.
In any case, some questions have arisen as a result of the latest decision of ACMA, with their answers set to be probably found in the months to come.