Australia hails impact of stricter gambling controls

Australia hails impact of stricter gambling controls

Monday, November 5, 2018 Posted by News Team
Australia
However, poker advocacy group claims players have simply shifted to new, more dangerous, sites

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) claims to have seen 33 high-profile offshore gambling operators withdraw their services from the country since it was granted new investigatory powers and the ability to hand out stricter penalties. 

Since the introduction of new controls in September 2017, the ACMA said, it had dealt with 237 enquiries or complaints, and launched 62 investigations as a result. Of the companies investigated, 38 were found to be in breach, of which 68% are now compliant with Australian gaming laws.

In total the ACMA investigated 138 websites, and found that 58% were not providing services to Australian customers. This number rose to 83% when those doing so were targeted with sanctions. 

The reforms to the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 ban operators from offering online poker and in-play betting, as well as requiring all operators to hold a licence from a state territory before they can offer their services to consumers.

As part of the overhaul, the ACMA was given the power to issue civil penalties and oversee all gambling-related complaints. Among the new sanctions are daily fines of AUD$7.9m for corporations, while individuals involved in illegal gambling can be banned from travelling to Australia. 

“We’ve made it clear that Australia’s laws are unambiguous,” ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin explained. “If you provide prohibited or unlicensed gambling services to customers in Australia, you are breaching Australian law and we will take enforcement action.”

As a result of the new, stricter regulations, Australian offshore gambling expenditure is expected to drop, though the ACMA notes that as the size of the offshore market is difficult to ascertain, the scale of the decline is unclear.

It cites data from Global Betting and Gaming Consultants (GBGC) that suggests expenditure will fall by 50% from $450m in 2017 to around $200m. H2 Gambling Capital, meanwhile, suggests that expenditure will drop 7% between 2017 and 2018.

However the ACMA’s findings have been disputed by the Australian Online Poker Alliance (AOPA), which suggests that players have simply shifted from one offshore site to another. 

“Yes, some grey market sites may have gone, but they have been replaced with different ones,” AOPA founder Joseph Del Duca said. “If anything, there are more unregulated poker sites for players to choose from today than there was previously. 

“During our campaign we have spoken with thousands of Australian poker players,” Del Duca continued. “To a person, nobody we have spoken to has stopped playing. They have merely shifted to different sites. 

“ACMA pulls its numbers from a list of 138 sites that they put together years ago. It does not take into account the multiple new sites that have emerged to target Australians since the Interactive Gambling Amendment Act (IGA) was changed.”

Del Duca said that the new sites emerging were “much worse” than ones forced out of the market by the ACMA. Instead of allowing players to gamble using Australian dollars, he said, these sites use a “fake currency”, creating potential risks in relation to money laundering or terrorist financing. 

The new breed of sites also put players at risk, by forcing them to deal with potentially dangerous or unscrupulous people in order to play poker. 

“The AOPA calls on ACMA to stop patting themselves on the back over false truths and to get serious about protecting online poker players,” Del Duca continued. “The only way that they can do that is by joining with us to call for the Morrison Government to amend the IGA and to bring safe, regulated, online poker back to Australia. 

“If you are serious about protecting Australians, don’t send them to black market operators - regulate online poker,” he said in conclusion. “Not only does this provide huge taxation and freedom of choice benefits but it is the only way to ensure hard working, every day Australians who enjoy playing poker online can do so in a safe manner.”

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