Offshore gambling operators once enjoyed great freedom in offering their services to Australian players and brought in significant revenue. The Australian government came down hard on these unlicensed gambling operators in an attempt to clean-up the industry and protect its players and so far those results have paid off well according to recent reports.
The telecom watchdog in recently announced that it had succeeded in blocking and stopping the operations of 33 prominent foreign online gambling operators who previously served local punters. They have pulled out of the country and is a major victory for both the telecom watchdog as well as the Australian authorities. This comes a year after Australia’s amended gambling laws were enacted giving increased powers to the telecom watchdog.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) released a 12-month report into its actions combating illegal offshore gambling and the results are quite positive.
Amended Interactive Gaming Act 2001
In September 13, 2017, the amended Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (IGA) took effect in Australia, prohibiting all online sports betting sites and online poker websites from catering to local punters without Australian license. The amended laws also ban online in-play betting, and other poker or casino products, as well as online slot machines. Promoting and advertising unauthorized gambling sites and gambling on credit are also prohibited under the new laws.
Individuals, such as directors or agents, who are found to violate the rules would be subject to civil penalties. As part of the new amendments, ACMA now has expanded responsibilities, equipped with new disruption tools to enforce actions against illegal gambling sites. The watchdog is also playing a role in spreading awareness to deal with illegal interactive gambling services.
Significant Developments
Three months after the new laws took effect, a total of 108 enquiries and complaints were received by ACMA in relation to regulatory violations. The watchdog carried out 18 separate investigations through its Interactive Gambling Taskforce, which resulted in a number of suspected violators withdrawing their services from the Australian market.
In one year, ACMA has received at total of 237 enquiries and complaints as it continues to investigate non-compliant gambling sites. Of the 62 investigations launched by ACMA in the 12 months after the Act’s passage, 38 involved actual breaches of the amended laws. Out of 58 websites targeted for compliance, 35 are now adhering to the rules; 23 foreign operators are now compliant out of the 34 targeted. This is a significant improvement in the IGA compliance level front.
Engaging with International Regulators and Industry Players
ACMA has been working with international regulators and stakeholders in the offshore gambling market to promote compliance and raise awareness. It has also worked hand in hand with other Australian regulatory agencies in the online gambling industry. ACMA’s approach includes targeting software providers, affiliate organizations, payment processors and trade groups.
As part of the curb, the watchdog sent 15 notifications to gambling regulators in a number of jurisdictions, including the US, Gibraltar, the UK, the Isle of Man, Curacao, Kahnawake, Alderney and Malta. It also got in touch with 33 software providers as well as 10 payment processors, urging them to address issues regarding offending clients.
ACMA To Beef Up Actions
As a result of the extensive crackdown, the volume of business that local punters do with foreign online gambling operators is estimated to drop by more than 50% within a year, based on figures from the Global Betting and Gaming Consultants (GBGC). But leading industry data specialist H2 Gambling Capital suggested that while online gambling expenditure will fall by 7% as a result of the measures, over 40% of the country’s total gambling expenditure will still go to illegal offshore sites.
ACMA said while it is difficult to quantify a very widespread problem like unauthorized online gambling, it is important to note that both figures are reflecting a downward trend. According to reports, the watchdog is set to strengthen its measures by requiring internet service providers in the country to block foreign gambling domains.
Nerida O’Loughlin who is the ACMA Chair said laws in Australia are clear and precise and that the ACMA is determined to suppress international gambling sites that serve local punters without the necessary approvals.

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