Investigation underway as Foxtel airs ads for illegal offshore betting companies

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Foxtel television channel is being watched by the federal communications watchdog to investigate if they breached gambling laws by airing advertisements for two illegal offshore betting companies during the recent test cricket match between Australia and New Zealand.

The ads included a “virtual billboard” for Parimatch, a Cyprus-based online casino and bookmaker previously blocked by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) due to illegal gambling activities targeting Australians. Electronic barrier ads for 1xBat, a website directing users to an offshore bookmaker called 1xBet, were displayed throughout the broadcast.

While 1xBet has been blocked in Australia since 2018, it remained accessible through virtual private network (VPN) services. The ads were commissioned by New Zealand Cricket (NZC), prompting questions about compliance with Australian regulations.

ACMA has not yet decided whether to open an investigation but noted that exemptions may apply if the advertising is “accidental or incidental” and the broadcaster does not benefit from it directly or indirectly reported ABC News.

Foxtel clarified that the virtual ads were part of the live feed provided by NZC, and they had no control over their inclusion. NZC negotiated the advertising deals with a third-party rights agency in India and claimed the Parimatch ad was not visible to New Zealand audiences. Foxtel also said that they did not receive any revenue from these ads. Cricket Australia also raised concerns about 1xBet’s gambling connections, leading to the cancellation of an advertising deal. NZC stated it would review its advertising policies ahead of future matches.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs is investigating whether the ads breached its gambling promotion laws. Despite ACMA’s block on Parimatch in 2022, Australians could still access the site through a mirror site, highlighting challenges in regulating offshore gambling operators.

Sports management researcher Hunter Fujak emphasized the risks associated with advertising unlicensed offshore gambling companies, including exposure to websites not subject to Australian consumer protection regulations. A similar situation also occurred in Australia during the broadcast of the English Premier League last month. The investigation brought to light the challenges faced by broadcasters in adhering to strict regulatory frameworks across jurisdictions.