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Search Engines Break AU Online Gambling Ban? 196

Posted by Zonk
from the chips-where-there-aren't-supposed-to-be dept.
An anonymous reader writes "According to a ZDNet report, authorities in Australia are investigating Google and a few other search engines for possible breach of the country's online gambling laws. The Interactive Gambling Act 2001 prohibits advertising of gambling services on Web sites where 'it is likely that the majority of that site's users are physically present in Australia'. Banned services include online casino-style gaming services such as roulette, poker, craps, online poker machines and blackjack. Breaching the Act carries a maximum penalty of AU$220,000 ($168,000) per day for individuals and AU$1.1 million ($843,000) per day for corporations."
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Search Engines Break AU Online Gambling Ban?

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  • Well (Score:4, Funny)

    by cblanc (907387) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @05:38PM (#13334499)
    Sounds like Australia wants to cash out
  • by Eberlin (570874) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @05:39PM (#13334504) Homepage
    I just KNEW one of these days, that "I'm Feeling Lucky" button would get them in trouble.
  • Google can toss a set of statistics towards the cops showing the sheer amount of accesses from everywhere _ELSE_ compared to Australia. That overrides the majority requirement, I'd think.
    • Re:Simple. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Alereon (660683) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @05:43PM (#13334532)

      Google can toss a set of statistics towards the cops showing the sheer amount of accesses from everywhere _ELSE_ compared to Australia. That overrides the majority requirement, I'd think.

      This is probably referring to the Google Australia [google.com.au] site. Still, it's enraging that Australia, or any other country, thinks it's acceptable to infringe on people's fundamental freedom of speech.

      • Re:Simple. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by damiangerous (218679) <1ndt7174ekq80001@sneakemail.com> on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @06:05PM (#13334709)
        You don't have the freedom of speech to solicit someone to perform an illegal act, and it's not really reasonable to think you should. Keep in mind that soliciting someone to perform an illegal act is very different than simply talking about the act in any other context. You can certainly make a case that gambling should be legalized, but that's a separate issue. It's not in Australia, so you can't go around saying "Come here and gamble!" any more than you can say "Come here and buy heroin!"
        • Re:Simple. (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Vombatus (777631)
          You can certainly make a case that gambling should be legalized, but that's a separate issue. It's not in Australia, so you can't go around saying "Come here and gamble!" any more than you can say "Come here and buy heroin!"

          Most forms of gambling are legal in Australia. Most of the State Governments run some form of lottery, which raises much revenue (not to mention all the casinos and poker machines).

          As far as I know, it is only illegal to run (and advertise) an online gambling site from within Austral

      • ...on people's fundamental freedom of speech.

        Not all countries have freedom of speech. I don't know what Austrailia's stand on this is, but it's a tad parochial to assume that the US Bill of Rights holds everywhere.

        • Re:Simple. (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Alereon (660683)

          Not all countries have freedom of speech. I don't know what Austrailia's stand on this is, but it's a tad parochial to assume that the US Bill of Rights holds everywhere.

          Americans don't have freedom of speech because of the first ammendment, Americans have the first ammendment because of freedom of speech. The Bill of Rights enumerates a number of the basic freedoms that apply to all people everywhere; they cannot be legislated away just because a particular government or ruler doesn't like them.

          • The Bill of Rights enumerates a number of the basic freedoms that apply to all people everywhere; they cannot be legislated away just because a particular government or ruler doesn't like them.

            As long as you're talking about The United States of America, you're right. However, we're talking about Austrailia, and the Bill of Rights doesn't apply there. That's my point.

            • As long as you're talking about The United States of America, you're right. However, we're talking about Austrailia, and the Bill of Rights doesn't apply there. That's my point.

              The thing is, the Bill of Rights doesn't grant freedoms to people, it simply recognizes that these freedoms exist. All people, by virtue of their humanity, have these basic freedoms. No government has the right to take them away.

              • What you are talking about has nothing to do with the bill if rights, it is the concept of Natural Law http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_law [wikipedia.org], specifically it's interpretation by John Locke, whose writings heavily influenced the founders of America. The declaration of independence pretty much paraphrases Locke, and the Bill of Rights is heavily influenced by him as well. The Bill of rights itself however, is just an enumeration of 10 rights the founders felt the national government had no business inter
    • Re:Simple. (Score:1, Redundant)

      by Anubis350 (772791)
      but what about google's au gateway?
    • What if they don't have such a set?
    • Asside from google.com.au, there are likely also google adsense ads on all sorts of .au domains.
  • by nmoog (701216) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @05:41PM (#13334523) Homepage Journal
    Ha ha! They just don't want to lose any of their precious income from Pokie machines at the pubs. Those babies bring in $50,000 per annum - don't want that cash heading elsewhere now, do we!
  • This just in... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PsiPsiStar (95676) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @05:42PM (#13334528)
    ... Australians have been unable to access their various stock brokerages through Google.

    Seriously, banning gambling has got to be one of the more evident forms of government paternalism. Business is about evaluating risks and taking them. It just happens that gambling is typically a bad risk.

    And sure, some people can be habitual gamblers... but that applies to just about any other activity in life.

    If you try and make stupidity illegal, you'll never want for laws.
    • Why stop at stock brokers? We need to ban insurance now, too!
    • What's amusing about the whole situation is that government paternalism is particularly inept at enforcing bans on gambling and other moral vices on the web.

      Governments can take pop shots at intermediaries (like EBay +Yahoo over Nazi paraphernalia) but they are essentially helpless in the end as users find alternate methods to fulfill their desires.

      - E -

      Japan-A-Madness
      http://jmad.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com]
    • It just happens that gambling is typically a bad risk. ... If you try and make stupidity illegal, you'll never want for laws.

      Would you like to live in a world where you have to second guess all companies because their trying to screw you out of as much money as possible, or one where companies where honest and responsible.

      I would expect that it is the view of the Austrailian government that gambling is never as honest of as responsible as it should be, and any Advertising is bad and dishonest so they ban it
      • I've seen ads for casinos touting .98 average payout on the dollar. If it's honesty you want, force casinos to tell their average rate of payout the same way that corporations are transparent and food products list their ingredients.

        I'm all for informed consent, cigarette warning labels, etc. That's different than a ban. The standard here is really not consistant from one risky activity to another.
        • I've seen ads for casinos touting .98 average payout on the dollar.

          A payout rate of between 92% and 98% sounds about right for poker machines, however the trick is that they give you the money in such a way that you keep playing.

          ie: Put in $100, while you lose that $100, you've won $95. You don't realise because the 'credit' amount is slowly decreasing. Then, as you lose the $95 that you won, you 'win' $90. And so on, until you have "none money".

          • True. I was trying to respond to the criticism that gambling ads were somehow dishonest by showing some brutally honest advertising that casinos actually paid for.
      • "... it would be (a) wonderful world if politicians never lied and companies were responsible and truthfull, but it's never going to happen."

        Thank God! No one would ever make any money, and we would all starve to death! ;-)

    • Yes, but it's even weirder than that. Gambling isn't illegal in Australia - in fact, it's a big source of revenue for a lot of people (including the government). But advertising gambling is illegal.
    • Sorry but you are so wrong. Quite a few countries have very strict laws prohibiting gambling. The US does in most states. Practically everything gambling related in the Netherlands is run by the governament. Besides there are a bunch of laws that are meant to protect persons from themselves. And no, a gambling addiction isn't the same as being addicted to chocolat.

      What is different about the situation in Australia is that the governament is picking a fight with something that is too many steps away from the
      • Re:This just in... (Score:5, Informative)

        by strider44 (650833) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @09:48PM (#13336142)
        You're misinterpreting what's happening here. The Government doesn't care what happens on www.google.com but only on www.google.com.au where all Australian visitors to www.google.com are automatically diverted to. Displaying gambling advertisements on a web site specifically designed for Australian audiences is against Australian law. Web sites like Slashdot or Fark, even though they may have many Australian visitors are free to do what they like. Even in sporting events held overseas that are televised in Australia (such as formula 1 or the Ashes) there are gambling and cigarrete advertisements. The Ashes has a huge blimp with the logo "BetFair.com" that the camera zooms in from time to time, and this is televised on a government television station.

        The difference is that Google.com.au is based in Australia and targetting Australian audience. The advertising done by Google is based from Sydney [google.com.au]. If they display illegal advertisements on an Australian web site then that's illegal by Australian law.
    • Seriously, banning gambling has got to be one of the more evident forms of government paternalism. Business is about evaluating risks and taking them. It just happens that gambling is typically a bad risk.

      Gambling is a bad risk, and when people gamble away their rent money, someone has to take care of them. If you're going to take the state out of that responsibility, someone is still going to have to do it; or do you just plan on kicking them out of the way on your way to work?

      And sure, some people can be
      • when people gamble away their rent money, someone has to take care of them.

        I don't see why. We don't allow life-long alcoholics to make the lists for liver transplants because we expect them to pay for their stupidity; why should be treat gamblers (or any addict) any differently?

        or do you just plan on kicking them out of the way on your way to work?

        Pretty much. If they destroyed their lives through their own bad behavior I see no reason to fork over my tax money to pay for their mistakes - and that includ
      • Re:This just in... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by PsiPsiStar (95676)
        or do you just plan on kicking them out of the way on your way to work?

        I don't plan on doing anything with them at all. It's their life and you can't have freedom without responsibility. Your response is a perfect example of that.

        When people gamble away their rent money they need to learn not to gamble away their rent money.

        I'm fine with an extremly basic social safety net, but if a thing isn't physically addictive I don't see the justification to regulate it. People spend lots of money on lots of things th
  • by reality-bytes (119275) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @05:43PM (#13334534) Homepage
    Is google really a web 'site'? If you go to google Australia [google.com.au] You're presented with very little more than a web-facing interface to a search-engine.

    Certainly, if you type in 'Casinos in Melbourne' you will probably find a lot of adverts at the side of your search - but the ads are usually fairly relevant to what *you* (mr consumer) wanted to find anyway.
  • by Sheetrock (152993) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @05:44PM (#13334547) Homepage Journal
    When large-scale Internet services such as newsgroups would simply disconnect a country for not playing well with the rest of the Internet?

    Maybe it's time to start looking into that again.

    • I concur. The actions of the USA, its government, and particular the department of commerce have clearly shown that they need to grow up and learn to play with others. :)

      Laugh - It's funny. Seriously, you should read up on your history; the Usenet Death Penalty was issued against corporations, not countries, and the legality of cutting off a country given existing international law and bi-/multilateral contracts is questionable at least, too.

      Furthermore, what would you actually want to achieve? Do you think
      • My impression was that 99% of the internet is IN the US (servers, etc). Thus, cutting off the US from the internet would basically just be cutting everyone else off from the internet.

        Bad boy! You stuck your thumb in the pie! As punishment, no desert for anyone but you!

        Yeah, seems kinda silly.
  • Google just need to pull the gambling ads from their Australia specific sites. Can't be that hard.
  • by tlambert (566799) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @05:45PM (#13334560)
    Anyone else sick of this stuff?

    Say Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo got together and cut Australia off for one day with a black screen of "Search Unavailable Today; Contact the Australian the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts for more information".

    -- Terry
    • Nah, the Aussies wouldn't understand it. It would probably work better if it read "G'day mate. A few varmints crawled up into the pipes and chewed up the web. No email today. But look, we've got pictures of the dingo that did it, an' boy, she's a beauty! Look at that..."
    • Australia is hardly the benchmark for retarded legislation and litigation, we're still not taking grandmothers to court over copyright infractions, but I'm sure with enough lobbying we'll catch up.

      Whenever Google looses a court ruling the kneejerk reaction is, well Google can just stop indexing Geico and AFP and whoever else speaks against their hegemony. Fortunately Google has more intelligent people behind the wheel who recognise the disasterousness of such a precedent.

      Governments will continue to attem

  • by Vellmont (569020) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @05:54PM (#13334632) Homepage
    The search engine case aside (probbably far more complicated with Google having physical presence in most countries), how can Australia hope to regulate a website that's neither physically in Australia, nor run by Australians?

    If the news article is right (and it's certainly possible it's completely wrong), all that has to be true is that mostly Australians visit the site, and online gambling is advertised. So if I (A US citizen) setup a website that Australians really like, then put advertising for gambling sites on it, I've somehow broken Australian law.

    This whole law sounds very fishy. Is Australia going to seek extradition for anyone running a website targeting Australians that advertises gambling (and later on maybe whatever else they don't like)?

    To any Australians complaining about how the US wants to extend control of the law beyond our borders I hold up a shiny mirror. To anyone else, maybe your country is next.
  • but they charge to gamble, so I guess that doens't apply here.
  • by meatflower (830472) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @05:56PM (#13334643)
    Do a search on www.google.com.au for "gambling" or "casino", no ads on the side. Do a search for "shrimp"...ad's ahoy. Pretty quick response!
    • True, but if you do "online gambling" (no quotation marks) and click "I'm feeling lucky", you get a online casino site. Could that be considered advertising?
    • err no. Try searching for "cazino" (with the "z"). Plenty of gambling ads there.

      Google prevents advertisers targetting gambling related keywords as per their TOS - so advertisers just target slight variations or mispellings that aren't caught by googles filter.

      That is the complaint.
      • So by exploiting flaws in the system, individuals can access content not intended for their consumption? Man, complaining about that is like suing a video game company when users can crack the basic composition of their program and access pornographic material that's not part of the actual... oh, wait.
  • by Fear the Clam (230933) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @05:58PM (#13334660)
    Or does damn near everything in Australia having to do with computers, telephones, or ISPs seem to have problems? What's with the Australian government and high tech stuff?
    • "We" (by this I mean the majority) voted in a conservative government, who appears to have the average age of 90 (WARNING: exageration detected), and are the kind of people who would poke a telephone with a stick (from a distance) to see what it does. Don't even get started on computers.

      (WARNING: rant and exageration detectors have just red-lined, and are liable to explode)

    • Re:Is it just me? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by asifyoucare (302582)
      [Is it just me?] Or does damn near everything in Australia having to do with computers, telephones, or ISPs seem to have problems? What's with the Australian government and high tech stuff?

      Its not just you.

      The Australian government has a recent history of cluelessness. Senator Alston was the minister responsible for communications until recently, and he was a luddite and a religious fundamentalist.

      His damage hasn't been undone yet.
  • Is it just me ? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by darthgnu (866920) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @05:58PM (#13334661) Homepage Journal

    Is it just me or governement imposed bans were meant to be broken ? If im in Australia and i'm an addicted gambler will a ban actually prevent me from gambling ? A ban only makes it harder, but it won't stop the true addicts.

    The same has happened before with alchol and OxyContin bans. In the later case, it is relatively easy to get on the street. Is this really helping anyone ? Even the prevention argument seems pretty bleak.

  • for freedom (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by Lord Ender (156273)
    Google should just close down their .au site until Australia respects freedom of speech. To an American, this law seems absurd.
    • Re:for freedom (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      ``To an American, this law seems absurd.''

      To many Australians it's also absurd, but since it doesn't impact their daily lives they couldn't be bothered worrying about it.

      As for an American finding Australian laws strange, have you seen some of your own laws lately?? ;-)

    • Re:for freedom (Score:5, Insightful)

      by slavemowgli (585321) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @06:25PM (#13334856) Homepage
      So? To me as a European, the fact that you have the DMCA in the USA seems absurd. The PATRIOT act seems absurd. The fact that you have a president who got through with manipulating the elections, lied to his own people and *got through with it* and now advocates creationism seems absurd - as does the fact that he's being celebrated, while another president who actually improved your economy alot got shafted for having sex with an intern.

      So what's your point?

      For that matter, isn't it absurd that you can't yell fire in a crowded theatre? Oh, that's not freedom of speech, you say? Why not? It's simply wrong to claim that speech isn't regulated in the USA at all - it is, just like everywhere else. Your regulations happen to differ from Australia's, but they're still there.

      And finally, what's with the "we should do X to them until they give up and do Y just like we want them to"? How would you feel if an Australian advocated doing the same thing to you? Oh, sure, you might say that you wouldn't care because there's not really any Australian company you're dependent on, but that's evading the issue - think about it. Don't you think that a sovereign democratic nation deserves a bit more respect than that?
      • by Dunbal (464142)
        To me as a European... seems absurd.

              To me as a Canadian not bathing regularly, like - every day, seems absurd. But to each their own, eh?
      • I won't argue with your central complaints, but...

        (1)The american president has pretty much 0 personal control of the economy. The only power they have there is appointing people (limited to practically no power at all by the approval of congress) and claiming credit for the accomplishments of the previous set of people who actually have an effect on the economy. This is why Clinton was still a worthless president.

        (2) Bush doesn't advocate creationism. The fact that he's dumb enough to believe in it hi
      • To me as a European, the fact that you have the DMCA in the USA seems absurd. The PATRIOT act seems absurd.

        To me as a thought criminal, non-collectivist, pro-freedom individual, the fact that the European Union has a Food Supplements Directive which bans vitamins [timesonline.co.uk] is absurd. The EUCD [fsfeurope.org] (which is the European Union equivalent of the DMCA and is almost completely implemented by law [wiki.ael.be]) seems absurd. Spending half a million USD to GPS track kids [www.enn.ie] seems absurd.

        You mention not being able to say fire in a movie t

  • by nietsch (112711) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @06:12PM (#13334770) Homepage Journal
    from TFA:
    Since the Interactive Gambling Act came into effect, the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts has only received five complaints for potential breaches. The only complaint still under investigation is about an e-mail that contained "promotion and links to an interactive gambling service offering betting exchange products." The complaint was lodged in March 2003 and is still under investigation.


    Methinks they are beating their drum a bit to show they are not the civilservant slackers they appear to be.
  • RTFA! (Score:5, Informative)

    by itachi18 (837104) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @06:26PM (#13334865)
    Since I don't see that anybody actually has RTFA:
    "Google Australia displays advertising links to online gambling sites when certain keywords are
    misspelt."
    (Bold added for emphasis.)
  • by Peter Cooper (660482) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @06:39PM (#13334955) Homepage Journal
    Australia has a VERY vibrant gambling scene. There are areas of the country where people pile most of their monthly salary into slot machines (which they call "pokies"). Australia has one of the highest concentration of poker machines in the world, and a high percentage of gambling addicts per capita.

    Australia isn't interested in banning gambling as it brings in so much money. They just want to ban online gambling, as the money is likely to leave the country and not get taxed by the Australian government! This is protectionism, not some moral judgement on the part of the Australian government.

    I wonder how long it'll be till Bush passes a law so that non-US companies can no longer advertise to US customers. It'll stop money leaving the US economy after all, and reduce the gaping trade deficit.
  • This is another example on how monetary fines are a joke. It's not just Austrailia - it happens everywhere.

    If you're Joe Shmoe in Austrailia and you have a banner ad for an online casino on your personal blog web site, you can get fined for almost $200,000 a day. That's a LOT more then most of the population earns per YEAR. Yet, if you're a corporation, it's $850,000 - which is a lot more but most corporations could afford to pay out at least a day's worth of fines (and if not, you bankrupt the company
    • remember those are the maximum fines though you'd have to look into case history to see if judges were giving out the fines in a reasonable way. (and remember if you set the limit too low you end up with rich guys making profit and sticking there finger up at the government).
  • This is filed under YRO, but it seems like you don't have any rights online except those the government feels are good for you.

    If the entire Internet was dumbed down to meet the restrictions of every government on the world together, there would be no content at all.

  • by jebiester (589234) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @07:12PM (#13335196)
    I live in Sydney, and every pub and club here has rows of poker machines. The influx of gambling services is quite a problem here, and is having a huge social cost. We probably have more gamling machines than anyone else in the world now. Not to mention two large casios in Sydney and Melbourne.

    If the government really wanted to limit gambling it would target the gambling in clubs and casinos, however, I believe the real reason for the online gambling ban is more likely to be lobbying from the clubs and pubs (who make most of their money from pokie machines now).

    Of course, all it means is that Australians put their credit card details into foreign internet gambling sites, and the government doesn's get any tax revenue from internet gambling at all.
  • One country sueing a global internet site is like sueing the satellite company for broadcasting globally advertising that might be unwanted in a particular region. If somebody is watching a US channel and gets an ad for someplace in Vegas, do they sue HBO?

    From my understanding, the country portals function to filter results through a quicker server and perhaps with more local relevance... if Australia can sue over google having generic ads then next will we see middle-eastern countries sueing over the abi
  • Almost every pub (bar) in australia has more gambling machines than you would think believable. If grandma stays at home and does her gambling online, the government would miss out on the massive revenue it collects from poker machine taxes.
  • IF AU dosen't like it, they should ban Google.  It's not googles job to ban sites that countries don't like, its the countries job.
  • WTO Precedence (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tightpoker (908227)
    From a WTO ruling last year [usatoday.com]: "The ruling followed a suit by Antigua and Barbuda, claiming U.S. restrictions amounted to unfair trade practices. The economy of the Caribbean nation relies heavily on Internet gambling. The nation points out that the United States allows gambling within its borders. And, in the case of state lotteries, the gambling is sometimes government-sponsored.

    The Caribbean country views the WTO ruling as a victory. It sees two options for the United States. The first is that the Unite
    • No, this is about gambling ADS. And offshore ads are just as illegal as local ones. So in this respect it's pretty much similar to the first option of WTO ruling: prohibit all gambling - prohibit all gambling ads.
  • by VolciMaster (821873) on Wednesday August 17, 2005 @08:01AM (#13338171) Homepage
    From the CIA World Factbook [cia.gov]: 20,090,437 (#54).

    That can't be a case where "it is likely that the majority of that site's users are physically present in Australia". Unless they mean the Australian version of Google. Even so, it's a teeny segment of Google's search engine, so the majority of Google users aren't in Australia.

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