ACMA Struggles To Stop Illegal Casino From Using Facebook To Target Aussies
- An offshore online casino is illegally targeting Australians on Facebook
- The company was previously flagged by ACMA for offering a prohibited online gambling services to Australians
- Facebook’s parent company Meta said it had reviewed the ads run by the online casino
An offshore online casino has continued to target Australians even after receiving a formal warning from Australian authorities. The gambling firm has been illegally promoting its services to Australian customers via Facebook ads.
However, Facebook’s parent company Meta said the online casino has been running the ads in accordance with its advertising rules.
Online Casino Previously Received Warning from ACMA
The online casino in question, BitStarz, is registered in Curacao. In 2021, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) issued a formal warning to the company for offering a prohibited interactive gambling service to Australians, which is a violation of the country’s gambling laws.
Despite the warning, BitStarz has continued to run ads on Facebook targeting Australian customers. This has been unveiled through a university research project spearheaded by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society (ADM+S).
The research project, called the Australian Ad Observatory, collects ads from Facebook users to better understand “targeted advertising”, a form of digital marketing in which ads are served to a specific audience.
The project involved 2,000 participants who had seen the BitStarz ads. The online casino ads may have reached many more people in Australia and there may have been similar ads yet to be detected that are illegally targeting domestic customers, according to Daniel Angus, a professor at the Queensland University of Technology who serves as a chief investigator for ADM+S.
Under Meta’s policy, advertisers are required to provide evidence that the gambling services they are promoting are legal and regulated in the jurisdictions they want to target. In Australia, any advertisement of a prohibited interactive gambling service, such as those run by BitStarz, is not allowed under the country’s Interactive Gambling Act.
Meta’s Ads Review Process Questioned
Meta insists it had reviewed the BitStarz ads and said they were run by an “authorized” gambling partner. Given BitStarz’s status in Australia, Meta must be questioned as to why it allowed the company to post the ads even when the site has already been prohibited from providing its online casino services to Australians.
Professor Angus has cast doubt on Meta’s review process, saying certain ads that aren’t supposed to reach the public are able to do so because “humans are not involved” in making judgments. He said Meta should strengthen its customer protections and it can do that with the help of multiple civil society groups and government agencies, including regulators.
Monash University gambling researcher Dr. Charles Livingstone is also calling for more powers to be granted to ACMA to allow it to block or remove online gambling ads that are directly targeted at Australians.