Crackdown on pokie site awash with ’tens of millions of dollars
Crackdown on pokie site awash with ‘tens of millions of dollars’
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Australia’s media regulator has cracked down on an illegal casino-style gambling website awash with tens of millions of dollars, ordering internet service providers to ban the site.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) received a slew of complaints this year about thepokies.net, a site that attracts about 30,000 Australian visitors each month. Many users complained about losing large amounts of money through the site or not having their winnings delivered after apparent jackpots.
“We have received more complaints about thepokies.net this year than any other illegal gambling website, and it is clearly doing a lot of harm to the Australian community,” said ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin.
The site offers casino and pub-style poker machine simulators in games such as the Greek god-inspired Gates of Olympus, the dinosaur-themed Raptor Doublemax and the Candy Crush-esque Sweet Bonanza.
The regulator said thepokies.net is one of the most significant sites they’ve targeted since ACMA began ordering site shutdowns in 2019. ACMA has so far ordered service providers to shut down about 500 illegal gambling websites since gaining the power to ban sites.
Online casino-style gambling games including games based on poker machines, blackjack, roulette and scratchies are banned in Australia.
Many online casinos still target Australian audiences despite the risk of a $1.1 million fine aimed at unlicensed online gambling services. Estimates of the revenue of online gambling operators in the Asia Pacific eclipse $60 billion and Australians spend at least $400 million gambling online per year.
ACMA says 100 offshore operators illegally offering online gambling in Australia have pulled out of the market since 2017. But elusive operators and the sites’ tendency to vanish and then reappear under different branding present a challenge for the regulator to crack down on the illegal sites.
Online gambling surged during COVID-19 lockdowns. A report by the Australian Gambling Research Centre found that one in 20 people picked up online gambling in the first lockdown. Young men aged between 18 and 34 were the most likely to have picked up the habit.
The number of people who reported gambling online jumped from 8 per cent in 2020 to 11 per cent last year, said ACMA.
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