Australian authorities launched a crackdown in June with the intention of targeting betting providers who weren’t playing by the country’s strict rules on online gambling. Caught up in the trawl was a popular online casino by the name of “thepokies.net”, which provides slots and table games.
This would generally be enough to find itself on the wrong side of the law. Under Australian betting ordnance, casino gaming online is illegal, with the law only permitting betting on sports, and even then under heavy regulation.
thepokies.net, however, went further than this by not only offering casino gaming services, but also failing to provide an acceptable service to customers.
The site came under considerable scrutiny when some erstwhile customers reported it for withholding deposits and failing to pay out winnings. Within its terms and conditions, thepokies states that players may only play on the site if they are from locations where online gambling is legally permitted. Elsewhere on the site, however, it had been seen to encourage players to use VPNs to get around geo-blocking.
There is also the fact that the site carries the name that it does. “Pokies” is a slang term used more or less exclusively in Australia to refer to slot games including video poker. There can be little doubt that the site openly offered gaming opportunities to Australian players, then failed to pay them winnings, and laid the blame at their doors for betting with an offshore provider despite encouraging them to do exactly that.
So, what are the consequences for thepokies.net? Well, frustratingly for players, there may be none at all. While the site can be blocked via its ISP, there is nothing to stop it reappearing with a modified URL – and within days of Australian regulators blocking the site, visitors to the original URL were automatically redirected to a mirror site called “thepokies11.net”. Blocking that site, it is expected, will simply see the casino using the same trick again in what has been described as a game of “whack-a-mole”. The other punishment that could be dished out to a rogue provider is a $1.1 million fine, but thepokies.net does not operate legally anyway, so it has had little incentive to make clear the identities of its owners nor their location, so any fine would be next to impossible to collect. Regulators have stated that they have received more complaints in 2022 about this one site than any other, but in the long term, the question remains as to what they can really do about it.