5 March 2018

Questions over legality of Australian Bitcoin sports gambling site

A controversial bitcoin gambling site registered on the Australian territory of Christmas Island should be shut down immediately, a expert in Australian gambling legislation says. The justbet.cx site offers live sports betting on a number of Australian and international sports, including the Australian Football League (AFL), AFLX (seven-a-side version of AFL) and A-League (soccer), as well as casino gaming and pre-match wagering. Although based in Costa Rica, it uses the .cx country code of Christmas Island, an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean.

“This site directly contravenes Australian law”, says Monash University’s Dr. Charles Livingstone. “The Interactive Gambling Act prevents anyone from offering Australians any form of gambling other than (pre-match) wagering online.

“Secondly, it is simply not permissible for a non-Australian registered operation to pretend that it’s operating within an Australian jurisdiction. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and the Australian Federal Police (AFP) should act to ensure this site goes down immediately.

“Both of those agencies need to be looking at this very carefully and doing everything they can to ensure that no operator pretending to be an Australian operator should be offering these services. They should be shutting them down forthwith.”

While no gambling sites breaching the Interactive Gambling Act have been sanctioned or shut down previously, Dr Livingstone is hopeful a recent tightening of the legislation will lead to be action being taken in the future. He has also called for the Christmas Island Domain Administration (CIDA) to be “brought to account”.

“The simple fact is, Christmas Island is an Australian territory”, he argues. “It’s clearly subject to the Interactive Gambling Act, and anyone who is purporting to license a gambling operator to provide services which are prohibited under that act should be held to account. 

“If it has an Australian domain name, the Commonwealth has an obligation to shut it down. And they certainly shouldn’t be allowing whoever operates the domain name .cx to licence it to this sort of operation, because it gives the impression that it’s an Australian site, a site subject to Australian jurisdiction.”

CIDA says it is unable to deregister the site without being prompted to do so by the authorities, or due to an official complaint lodged by a member of the public. Further responses are being sought from CIDA and from the ACMA.

• Bitcoin gif image used in connection with this article is © Kelly Walsh.

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