Australia Launches Crackdown on Illegal Online Gambling

A new online gambling-focused bill was presented to the Australian government on Thursday. The proposed legislation targets mostly offshore iGaming operators that provide illegal gambling services to local customers. The bill comes as the first stage of a three-phase process initiated by lawmakers earlier this year and aims at curbing questionable gambling practices.

The proposed legislation was prepared by Australian Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge. According to the official, Australia’s Interactive Gambling Act 2001 contained a number of loopholes that offshore gambling operators have been exploring over the years to provide online gambling options that were actually prohibited by law.

Sports betting is the only online gambling activity Australian customers can engage in legally. However, a certain type of offering, the so-called in-play betting, is illegal under the country’s current gambling regulations. Exploring inadequacies in the law, operators have come up with ways to avoid penalties and yet continue providing such gambling options. Minister Tudge’s Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 is actually concerned with coping with that particular issue, among many other.

Under the proposed legislation, offshore operators will have to obtain licenses in order to be permitted to operate in the local market. Providing gambling services to Australian bettors without a license will be considered a violation of the law and will be penalized heavily.

If signed into law, the bill would also authorize the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to punish violators with severe penalties without having to turn to the Australian Federal Police beforehand. Minister Tudge proposed fines of up to A$1.4 million per day for individuals and of up to A$6.75 million for gambling companies that have breached the law in any way.

The creation of a National Consumer Protection Framework was also proposed in the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016. Minister Tudge is set to meet with fellow ministers on November 25 to put heads together on the framework’s details. According to media reports, it would likely include a self-exclusion list, a voluntary pre-commitment scheme, and bans on gambling operators offering bettors credits.

As part of his crackdown on illegal online gambling, Minister Tudge also called for the creation of a “name and shame” list for operators that have violated gambling regulations and should be avoided by customers.

Introduced only today, it is yet to become clear whether the bill will gain the necessary support from Australian lawmakers. The proposed legislation needs to pass the Senate in order to be singed into law.

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