Australia’s media regulator has cracked down on an illegal casino-like gambling website flooded with tens of millions of dollars, ordering internet service providers to ban the site.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has received a slew of complaints this year about thepokies.net, a site that attracts around 30,000 Australian visitors each month. Many users have complained about losing large sums of money on the site or not receiving their winnings after apparent jackpots.
“We have had more complaints about thepokies.net this year than any other illegal gambling site, and it is clearly doing a lot of damage to the Australian community,” said ACMA President 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 biggest sites they have targeted since the ACMA began ordering sites to be shut down in 2019. The ACMA has so far ordered providers to services to shut down about 500 illegal gambling websites since they got the power to ban sites.
Casino-style online games of chance, including games based on poker machines, blackjack, roulette and scratchies, are prohibited in Australia.
Many online casinos are still targeting the Australian public despite the risk of a $1.1 million fine aimed at unlicensed online gambling services. Estimates of online gambling operator revenues in the Asia-Pacific region exceed $60 billion and Australians spend at least $400 million on online gambling per year.
The ACMA says 100 offshore operators illegally offering online gambling in Australia have exited the market since 2017. But elusive operators and the tendency for sites to disappear and then reappear under different brand names present a challenge for the regulator to crack down on illegal sites.