Bangladeshi Regulators Call for ISPs to Block Online Casinos
The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) asked all the Internet service providers (ISPs) and telecommunications departments in the country to block online gambling websites in the country. The head of the BTRC is thought to have received instructions from the Bengladeshi government to block online gambling.
An official with the BTRC said their agency has received complaints from “different sides” about online gambling — presumably from players who lost money, the families of problem gamblers, and
The order will create a firewall into Bangladesh for illegal online gambling operators. The BTRC’s policy does not distinguish between online casinos, sportsbooks, and poker sites — all appear to be banned.
Md Emdadul Hoque, the director of the Internet Service Provider Association of Bangladesh (ISPAB), said the policy will not be that difficult for ISPs and telecom departments to handle. Hoque said, “It might take few more hours to block all the sites completely as blocking any site is so technical.”
1867 Public Gaming Act
Land-based gambling is banned under the 1867 Public Gaming Act. While that law was instituted during the time Bangladesh was part of India, when the sub-continent was still ruled by the British Raj, it is still in effect.
Since it it a 19th Century law, the Public Gaming Act has no provisions for online gambling or mobile gambling. Until this point, Internet gambling sites existed in a legal gray area — neither banned nor legalized.
Online Gambling in Sharia Law
Bangladesh is 90% Muslim, so the sharia law ban on gambling also has great force. Sharia law bans gambling halls and states that, “Whoever is found in any such house, tent, room, space, or walled enclosure…”, will be in violation of Islamic law. The ban extends to the streets and back alleys, but also does not mention online gaming sites.
The BTRC’s online gambling firewall is therefore the first time in Bangladesh’s history that its officials have instituted an Internet gambling ban.
Virtual Private Networks
Whether that ban will be effective is another matter. In the past few years, VPNs have made national firewalls much less effective. People talk about China’s firewall, but while Chinese residents are banned from political websites and posting critical comments about the Chinese government, that does not keep them from launching Facebook and Instagram pages.
They do that because of VPNs, or virtual private networks used to get around firewalls. In China, if a person uses a VPN for personal reasons, the government looks the other way. So long as they do not engage in political talk, everything is fine. Policing VPNs would be difficult even for an authoritarian state like China.
Do VPNs Circumvent Firewalls?
While the Bangladeshi government might prosecute citizens who use VPNs for illegal online gambling, the government would find it hard to police such actions. Once again, IP blockers work on computers which do not have virtual private networks, but that is becoming increasingly rare.
Most people’s smartphones come with VPNs these days. For desktop and laptop users, most major search engines offer free VPNs. People seriously concerned about privacy and security can buy VPN software or monthly VPN subscriptions, so the world is full of ways to establish privacy.
Online Casinos with Proxy Servers
Beyond that, illegal online betting sites might take their own steps to circumvent a national firewall. Banned online casinos, poker sites, and sportsbooks use proxy servers to redirect traffic in ways to circumvent a firewall. Such methods have been successful for years in Russia, China, and India.
While the Internet policing agencies might update blacklists and block the proxy sites, it becomes a cat-and-mouse game between the government agencies and online gaming operators. All the while, ISPs and telecom departments are caught in the middle. Doing the government’s work for it is costly to the ISP businesses.
In short, the current online gaming firewall in Bangladesh is going to stop many residents from illegally gambling. The block will be effective in many cases. For dedicated gamblers, they will search for workarounds to the current government policy. So will gaming operators. As long as an activity or vice is popular, an underground market for it will exist.