An off-shore online casino has been infiltrating the newsfeeds of unsuspecting Australians through Facebook ads despite several formal warnings from local authorities to cease operations. Registered in the tax haven Curaçao, the online casino has managed to sneak under the social media giant’s radar, with its parent company Meta going so far as to acknowledge it as an authorized gambling partner.
The case serves to further highlight the disturbing issues currently plaguing Australian online gambling laws as it continues to become abundantly clear that while they are seemingly easy to enforce, they are also easy to evade. Unfortunately, according to Meta the online casino in question is doing no wrong under its policy which states that these types of businesses must prove that they are legal in the territories they wish to target.
As such this raises the question of how international social media platforms such as Facebook and TikTok can allow illegal ads to run on their sites, allowing offshore companies to operate with no consequence of the law.
Apart from words of caution, the ACMA also requested internet providers to ban illicit sites, with hundreds of providers on their block list. While the blocks will probably avert infrequent players, the same cannot be said for other active gamblers seeking real money online casinos in Australia.
Not An Isolated Incident
Unfortunately, this is not the first time the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) were at odds with Facebook over illegal gambling ads targeting Australians. In 2021, BitStarz was served a formal warning after it was found in breach of federal law for providing banned gambling services.
While this should have meant that the company was prohibited from targeting Australian customers, it still continued to do so through Facebook ads. In fact, research for a university project titled ‘Australian Ad Observatory’, led by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society, revealed that four different ads cropped up on four different users’ newsfeeds from July to August of last year. The images were believed to depict an Australian flag leaving little to the imagination as to who they were intended for.
One of the center’s chief investigators Professor Daniel Angus from the Queensland University of Technology stated that the illegal ads were seen by an estimated 2,000 participants. This alarming revelation also suggests that many more people may have been exposed to these ads as well as others that may not have been captured by the study.
At the start of the year, ACMA issued a blocking order against six offshore gambling websites after determining that they were in breach of the Interactive Gambling Act 2021. The order will prevent Australians from accessing the sites through local internet service providers. Stellar Spins, Rock n Reels, Boomerang Casino, 24 Casino, and Pokie Surf were determined to be operating in the country on illegal grounds.
Under the Interactive Gambling Act offering an illegal online gambling service to Australians is a crime that can land operators a $1.1m a day fine, which does not seem to stop them from trying. A staggering 686 illegal gambling and affiliate sites have been blocked by the ACMA since its first order dating back to November 2019. While more than 190 illegal services have left the country since the legal authority began its gambling rule crackdown on gambling rules.
In an effort to prevent further gambling harm, the ACMA is working hard to remind consumers to use caution when picking an online casino as falling prey to illegal gambling services could mean losing out on their own funds. The need for such action is becoming more prevalent as the industry continues to grow and sites continue to fight for a slice of a potentially very lucrative pie.
Due to the nation’s love of sports and pub culture gambling has always been popular among Australians, with the popularity of online casinos skyrocketing in the wake of last year’s pandemic. In fact, revenue estimates predict the market will reach $6.6 billion by 2027.