Thepokies.net, a popular gambling website used by around 30,000 Australians every month, has been banned following numerous complaints from punters who claimed to have lost millions of dollars. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has instructed internet service providers to block access to the site within Australia. The offshore gambling service violated Australian law by running casino-style games and failing to pay out winnings to users.
Despite the ban, the issue of new sites quickly emerging under different names and branding poses an ongoing challenge for ACMA. In fact, thepokies.net has already reappeared under a modified domain name. Australia, being a major gambling nation, continues to attract offshore gambling sites, despite the risk of a hefty $1.1 million fine for offenders.
Since 2019, ACMA has successfully banned over 500 gambling sites by working closely with internet service providers. ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin emphasized that thepokies.net caused substantial harm to the Australian community, receiving more complaints than any other illegal gambling website. Complaints ranged from significant financial losses to the site’s refusal to honor deposits and winnings.
O’Loughlin pointed out the lack of consumer protections for punters exposed to online gambling sites. When money is withheld by these sites, which happens quite frequently, there is little recourse for users. Blocking access to such sites sends a strong message that ACMA will take action to prevent illegal operators from targeting Australians.
In addition to thepokies.net, ACMA has requested that service providers ban eight other sites: Azure Hand, Abo Casino, Betroom, 777Bay, Space Lilly, Jet Casino, Katsu Bet, and Winz.
While thepokies.net received a low rating on an online gambling review site due to issues such as pirated games, non-payment to players, lack of licensing, and poor customer service, it still managed to attract a significant number of users. The site offered both pub-style poker machine simulators and illegal online casino games like roulette and blackjack.
Australia’s strict regulations on online gambling include a potential fine of $1.1 million for unlicensed operators. Since ACMA began enforcing offshore gambling rules in 2017, around 160 illegal gambling services have withdrawn from the Australian market. However, the allure of Australians’ substantial online gambling expenditures, estimated to exceed $400 million annually, continues to entice offshore operators to circumvent the regulations.