After cracking down on porn, Indonesia aims to fight online gambling

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Jakarta (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - After targeting pornographic sites, the Indonesian government stepped up its anti-vice campaign yesterday by launching a joint ministerial programme to crackdown on online gambling sites.

Under the programme, the Communications and Information Ministry will collaborate with the Social Affairs Ministry and the Religious Affairs Ministry. Earlier this year, the three ministries implemented joint cooperation to crack down on pornographic websites.

The Communications and Information Ministry announced that the first step would be to block foreign-based online gambling websites.

The ministry's director general for informatics applications, Ashwin Sasongko said yesterday that the anti-gambling programme was part of the implementation of Article 27 of the 2008 Electronic Information and Electronic Documentation Law, which bans gambling.

In implementing the programme, it is envisaged that the communications ministry will enjoy close cooperation with the other two ministries.

"We will ask the Social Affairs Ministry to assess whether online services meet the definition of online gambling or only online games. If the ministry says that a site offers online gambling, we will definitely ban its URL [uniform resource locator]," Sasongko said yesterday.

His office also plans to block websites offering door prizes or free lotteries as covers for online gambling.

Similar efforts will also be utilised against foreign-based online gambling sites, including soccer betting sites.

The information ministry could not provide figures on how much money was involved in the online gambling business but an expert said it could be in the billions per day.

Sasongko said his office had in fact started its crackdown on online gambling in 2010, with the blocking of only a small number of websites.

The Social Affairs Ministry's director general for social protection and security, Andi ZA Dulung, said that his ministry, the Religious Affairs Ministry and an influential Muslim group Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), had the authority to review permit requests for free lotteries, which were often misused by operators to set up online gambling sites instead.

The Social Affairs Ministry regularly issued around 8,000 licenses for free lotteries and collections of public donations every year, Dulung said.

Dulung said the licenses had an expiration date and could not be renewed, and that the ministry would get tough on anyone abusing their licenses by handing their cases over to the police.

A cyber law expert from Padjadjaran University, Danrivanto Budhijanto, warned that the anti-online gambling programme could run into problems given the vague definition of what could be considered online gambling in communications and information technology law.

Budhijanto said the law did not specify what comprised online gambling.

"The article only specifies gambling materials, not the act of gambling," Budhijanto said.

Building cases against specific online gambling sites could also be difficult due to the lack of material evidence against their operators.

Budhijanto added that the three ministers lacked the necessary resources to execute their joint task.

He said the three ministries should merely aim to carry out the simple task of blocking online gambling sites.

"What we can do is block the websites based on complaints from the authorities and then ask for clarification from their webmasters. It's like shifting the burden of proof in corruption cases," he said.

He said the priority for the programme should be to minimise the damage done within communities.

A number of online gambling sites have recently cropped up on the Internet, including sites like rumah-judi.com, okebet.com and agenjudionline.com, which can easily be accessed by users.

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