The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is making an inquiry into several offshore gambling websites using Australian web addresses from the Cocos Islands. Also known as the Keeling Islands, the Cocos Islands are an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean. The islands have their own web country code (.cc).
The gambling websites using the Cocos Islands Web Addresses were found to have been based in many places around the world, from the Caribbean to Eastern Europe; but nowhere on the islands. The sites have had numerous gaming options on offer, including popular Australian games such as Big V basketball and Super Netball. A few of the gambling sites advertised that they accommodated Bitcoin, Dogecoin and other cryptocurrencies.
Fearing a breach in gaming regulations, the ABC contacted the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to check if the sites in question happened to be breaching the Interactive Gambling Act (IGA) of 2001.
The Act prevents international websites from giving out gambling offers such as sports betting from reaching Australian internet users. Local websites are also prohibited by the act from giving gambling offers without the appropriate license.
A number of factors have to be considered before beginning an earnest investigation of a website, however; such as the legality of the services the site offers, whether or not the website can actually offer anything to Australian customers, and of course, if the operators actually possess an operating license.
The Interactive Gambling Act
The Interactive Gambling Act is meant to protect Australians from less well-regulated gambling sites, and to prohibit non-wagering gambling being available online
according to Dr. Charles Livingstone, gambling law expert from Monash University.
Many people believe that the shutting down of the websites in question is perfectly within the scope of the IGA. This includes gambling reform advocates, such as Independent politician Andrew Wilkie is calling for the “immediate action” of the Australian government to ensure closure of the sites and the discontinuity of the illegal services they have on offer.
Christmas Island Also Being Targeted
Aside from the Cocos Islands, online gambling operators have also taken a liking to using Christmas Island as a place to register their domain with. In early 2018, the ACMA had also investigated JustBet, a gambling site that uses Bitcoin as its primary exchange medium. The gambling site had turned out to be based in Central America, and had quickly reopened with a Colombian (.co) URL soon after the ACMA’s investigation. The site no longer accommodates users from Australia.
Despite this initial victory, the ACMA is still limited in its capability to combat illegal betting in Australia. Outside of its jurisdiction are the internet domain registries that give out web addresses, and in order to enforce the IGA in full effect, the ACMA has to work in close conjunction with these domain registries.