The report led to crackdowns on the industry which included giving ACMA the power to impose civil penalties on offending companies, prohibiting lines of credit being offered by wagering companies and nationally-consistent protections for interactive wagering customers.
More than 65 illegal companies have pulled out of the Australian market since 2017 when the ACMA started enforcing new illegal offshore gambling rules.
About $400 million is spent annually by Australians on illegal gambling sites, accounting for around $100 million in lost tax revenue each year.
Under the new suite of measures, ACMA will investigate suspect sites and where other enforcement actions are not feasible, refer those in breach of the Interactive Gambling Act to internet providers to be blocked.
Federal Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said illegal overseas gambling companies were preying on Australians by targeting them with misleading incentives.
“Consumers have no recourse to retrieve their money,” Mr Fletcher told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.
“Too often these offshore operators are defrauding Australians – and their websites typically provide very few – if any – harm minimisation controls,” Mr Fletcher said.
He said while the regulator had a range of powers to protect Australians from illegal gambling services, including issuing formal warnings and seeking civil penalty orders, it could be difficult to take direct action against “faceless companies” with “no legal presence on our shores”.
Mr Fletcher said cooperation from the Communications Alliance, the peak internet provider industry, was an “important partnership” in the crackdown.
ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said ISPs would be asked to block gambling sites found to be in breach of the current laws but continued to offer services to Australians.
“We have been targeting illegal gambling services we know are active in the Australian market through complaints received and monitoring. But we expect that list of sites will grow as we investigate more,” Ms O’Loughlin said.
“The ability to have ISPs block illegal websites will be a valuable additional weapon in the ACMA’s arsenal in the fight against illegal online gambling.”
She said in many cases sites refused to pay significant winnings, or only a small portion.
“Customers had also experienced illegal operators continuing to withdraw funds from their bank account without authorisation,” she said.
“If you have funds deposited with an illegal gambling site, you should withdraw those funds now.
“Public education is also crucial in deterring Australians from using these sites, given many illegal offshore gambling websites target Australians by using Australian themes and images, such as the Australian flag and native animals,” Ms O’Loughlin said.
Rob Harris is the National Affairs Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House in Canberra