Aussie deceptive advertising condemned by minister

In New South Wales, Australia, a furore has broken out over alleged deceptive advertising involving a well known Internet marketing agency, with Gaming and Racing minister Kevin Greene stepping in to ask legitimate online gambling websites to end any financial association with the offending site.

The issue attracted the attention of the Aussie mainstream media following the intervention of the minister and the sinister nature of the alleged deception, which involved using fake websites that falsely advertised problem gambling assistance in order to misdirect users to a different site actively promoting gambling.

Minister Greene said that the false advertising was "disgusting" and designed to target people with personal gambling problems. He said that each Australian gambling website that appeared on the questionable marketing page was in violation of advertising rules under the Northern Territory’s Responsible Gambling Code. He did not say what, if any, sanctions awaited those found responsible for the deception.

"Not only do these websites seem to be places offering assistance to those with gambling problems, they immediately redirected people to a website promoting gambling services," the minister said. "This is an appalling tactic that appears to be intentionally designed to prey on vulnerable people in our society looking for help."

The minister added that he had contacted the legitimate gambling companies involved and urged them have themselves removed from the agency website, "...which they may not even be aware links to their own websites."

“It is clear the quickest thing that these gambling companies can do is voluntarily remove themselves from [this] appalling site," he said.

One of the suspect sites was reportedly Gamblers Anonymous.com.au, which automatically forwarded traffic to the Bookmaker.com.au affiliate site, where advertisements for some of Australia’s largest sports betting websites, such as Sportsbet.com.au, Centrebet.com.au and Sportingbet.com.au were displayed.

Spokesmen for the online gambling sites advertised on the agency's site immediately condemned the misleading and irresponsible marketing practice, and initial reports indicated they had complied with the minister's request to be removed from the offending page.

Gamblersanonymous.com.au is now offline following the widespread media coverage of the story. It is allegedly owned by Bookmaker.com.au, an agency that performs marketing services for online gambling firms.

Bookmaker.com.au claimed that visitors to gamblersanonymous.com.au were redirected in error, during a time when programmers were building the gamblersanonymous website. The site reportedly has no direct relationship with the real and reputable Gamblers Anonymous.org.au body.

Australian problem gambling activist, Reverend Tim Costello, rejected the “honest mistake” explanation presented by the marketing agency, calling the deception: ‘‘one of the most socially irresponsible, sinister things I’ve heard of.’’

Independent Australian Senator, Nick Xenophon, called for those that abused Australian domain names to be severely penalised, calling the people that orchestrated the fraudulent site, “corporate cannibals.”

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