Australia Tightening the Screws on Gambling Providers

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has begun tightening the screws on gambling providers deemed to be in breach of Australia’s new gaming law. Earlier this month, the ACMA published a report detailing its finding after investigating more than a hundred reports of potential violations of national gambling laws.

In all, ACMA investigations discovered 19 violations of Australian gambling laws since September. These violations include foreign providers offering prohibited services and local media advertising restricted gambling products. The ACMA has opted not to initiate punitive measures this time around, but it has put foreign operators on notice that things are changing in Australia.

We predicted something like this would happen over a year ago, but that doesn’t exactly make us Nostradamus. The Interactive Gambling Amendment Act (IGA Act) was on target to become law at the time and the new law stated very clearly that Australian gambling regulators would be provided with new powers to crack down on offshore betting sites providing services to Australians contrary to local law.

The IGA Act took effect in 2017 and some of its first measures went into force that same year. The primary goal of the IGA Act is to beef up the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001 (IGA), which was largely ignored by international operators due to a lack of enforcement capabilities.

The IGA Act has clarified key aspects of Australian gambling law, it has introduced new regulations such as a ban on credit betting and it has given government regulators teeth to enforce the law.

ACMA Gambling Violation Findings

Now, the ACMA is beginning to flex its newfound powers. The report published on the ACMA website explains that the ACMA initiated 18 investigations involving 65 different gambling sites over a three-month period beginning 17 September 2017. Those investigations uncovered 19 separate violations of the IGA.

The ACMA reports that it received 106 enquiries and complaints, and that 38 of those were found to be valid complaints worthy of investigation. Of the 18 investigations that were completed, 10 of those found one or more violations for a total of 19 breaches of IGA provisions.

Those breaches include:

  • Nine instances of an operator providing a prohibited form of gambling to Australian customers
  • Eight instances of providing a legal form of online betting, but without the requisite license
  • Two instances of advertising a prohibited or unlicensed gambling service in Australian media

The ACMA does not name and shame specific websites, but it does retain the ability to issue huge fines on violators and to notify foreign regulators if any of their licensees are violating Australian law.

However, the AMCA says it has not yet taken enforcement action. The AMCA reports it was able to successfully engage with providers and that a number of those services have since restricted access to Australian customers.

Australian Bitcoin Betting Sites Face Similar Crackdown

In other news, Australia’s primary licensing body has put the kibosh on Bitcoin betting. On 3 February, the Northern Territory Racing Commission (NTRC) notified its licensees that betting with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is not permitted.

E-mails sent to operators demanded that all licensees “immediately cease and desist” transaction in cryptocurrencies. This news came just a day after Australian bookmaker Neds announced the grand opening of a Bitcoin-only betting site. Neds announced on 2 February that it would begin accepting deposits in Bitcoin, taking wagers in Bitcoin and paying out winnings in Bitcoin all without ever offering the option to even convert balances to fiat currency.

Neds did the right thing by registering with the NTRC, but it turns out they’ll be sticking to fiat after all. The newly-launched website at Crypto.Neds.com.au now displays message that simply states the website is “currently offline pending further instruction from NT Racing Commission.” The regular fiat betting site at Neds.com.au is still alive and well as of this writing.