Gambling in Australia – A Complete Breakdown of Their Gambling Laws
According to the stereotype, Asians love to gamble. While that may be true to a certain extent, residents of China and similar nations can’t hold a candle to Australia when it comes to punting. According to Las Vegas Advisor, an article by The Economist named Aussies “the world’s biggest gamblers,” with an estimated annual loss of $990 per adult. And according to another report, the online side of the business is growing 15 percent year-over-year.
For decades, the laws regarding gambling in Australia have been on the liberal side of things. A number of brick-and-mortar casinos dot the landscape, some of which also offer poker alongside table and electronic games. Slots and video poker machines (known locally as “pokies”) are perhaps the most popular, and their presence is a common sight in pubs and clubs across the nation.
For sports betting, the Totalisator Agency Board (TAB) allows both tote wagers and fixed-odds bets to be placed. There are nearly 3,000 retail TAB outlets in Australia, and their locations range from sprawling metropolitan areas to the more desolate regions of Oz. Bingo, or “housie” as it tends to be called, is also widely available.
Betting at Internet casinos and poker rooms was supposed to be eliminated by the 2001 Interactive Gambling Act, although penalties were levied against gaming operators and not the players. This allowed Aussie citizens to continue to play with anyone who would accept their wagers, and there were plenty of offshore casinos willing to flaunt the law.
Who Regulates Gambling In Australia?
Gambling regulation in Australia is done on two levels. Central government takes an active role in both the supervision of the hobby and also the adding or amending of relevant laws. Regulation also takes place at the state and territorial level, with several regional authorities carrying out these functions.
ACT Gambling and Racing Commission – Australian Capital Territory
Licensing Commission – Northern Territory
Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing – New South Wales
Independent Gambling Authority – South Australia
Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation – Queensland
Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation – Victoria
Department of Racing, Gaming, and Liquor – Western Australia
Tasmanian Gaming Commission – Tasmania
Australian Broadcasting Authority – Manages a formal complaint process across Australia, allowing residents to register concerns involving the advertising of any interactive gambling products.
The Interactive Gambling Act 2001
Passed by the Australian Commonwealth Parliament in 2001, this legislation targets online operators with the intention of protecting the general public from the more harmful effects of gambling. While residents of Oz were still able to access online poker rooms and casinos without fear of legal repercussions, it became an offense for operators to offer real-money virtual gambling to anyone inside the borders of the country. It also prohibited advertisements related to real-money Internet games across all forms of media.
These laws applied to all interactive gambling services, whether they were located in Australia or abroad.
The penalty for violating the IGA was a fine up to $220,000 per day for individuals or $1.1 million per day for a company.
It should be noted that sports betting wasn’t included in the restrictions, and Aussie-based gambling operators were allowed to offer their services to any foreign nation listed as a “designated country.” Online lotteries were also exempt, as long as the provider obtained the necessary license and didn’t offer virtual scratch-off cards.
In-play sports betting was supposed to be eliminated by the IGA, as it was found to be one of the greatest temptations for problem gamblers. This wasn’t entirely effective, though, as a series of loopholes allowed those licensed in Australia to continue to offer such wagers.
Changes to Australian Gambling Legislation
After the Interactive Gambling Act was passed in 2001, most parties seemed content. More than a decade passed without any major changes, and even a 2011 review of the IGA only resulted in a series of recommendations.
In 2016, though, things began to change. Alan Tudge was appointed as the Minister of Human Services within the government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and he was given the daunting task of bringing the nation’s $20 billion gambling industry in line with modern standards.
Tudge approached his job with a zeal that made many in the gambling industry uneasy, and legislation was introduced within the same year. In the first half of 2017, the following revisions were introduced and passed into law:
Sports bettors can join an online self-exclusion register for a period of their choosing (no less than three months).
This can be done for a single site, with the user subsequently blocked from all other online bookmakers via computers, tablets, and phones.
Online bookmakers are required to offer a precommitment scheme to customers.
This allows them to voluntarily set betting limits in order to avoid financial hardships due to gambling.
Virtual sportsbooks are no longer able to offer lines of credit or “free bets” to their Australian customers.
This is meant to keep players from going further in debt, such as the case of one Aussie who received an $80,000 loan from a virtual bookmaker, lost the money, and then wound up in court fighting to keep his home.
The most significant changes, however, are just around the corner, as the Interactive Gambling Bill 2016 is expected to be passed into law in May of 2017.
The Interactive Gambling Bill of 2016
As the title of this bill indicates, it was introduced in 2016. It was passed by the Australian Senate in March of 2017, and it’s expected to be approved during the next governmental session on May 9th. Unless something unexpected happens, it should become the law of the land a few weeks later.
The IGB has been taken seriously by the gaming industry, and a number of operators have already withdrawn from the Australian market. At the time of this writing, the list includes 32Red, 888Poker, and Vera&John, and major names such as PokerStars are expected to follow suit.
Between the IGB and other pending legislation, here’s what’s expected to come into law within the near future:
A ban on all forms of iGaming which aren’t explicitly legal within Australia – This would include every activity besides virtual sports gambling.
Gambling advertisements will be banned during live sporting events.
Offshore gambling operators will not be able to legally offer services to Australians unless they receive a license from Oz – Violators will have IP addresses blocked, be placed on a blacklist, and subject to civil penalties. Since there are no provisions in place for awarding a license, the law is more of an outright ban on such operators.
Punters can’t wager on a sporting event while it’s underway – This is referred to as a “siren-to-siren ban,” and is meant to combat the addictive nature of live sports betting.
How Australian Gambling Laws Affect You
There’s nothing in the laws of Australia that make it illegal for residents to access or use online gambling services. Therefore, it’s completely legal for you to gamble online if you choose. There are numerous overseas operators that accept Australian customers, so there’s a decent selection of sites to pick from. There are also a number of licensed Australian online sports betting sites, too.
The biggest impact from the online laws is that casinos aren’t regulated within Australia.
If you encounter any problems, you’ll be unable to seek out a local authority for assistance. In other words, you’re on your own.
Luckily, this isn’t a major stumbling block, as most online casinos and poker rooms are licensed and regulated in another gambling jurisdiction. Some of these jurisdictions are more professional than others, though, so it’s always important to do some research before opening an account and making a deposit.
It’s also worth mentioning that Australia has favorable taxation laws when it comes to gambling. The act of betting (whether wagering on sports, slots, the lottery, or anything else) is considered a recreational activity, and winnings aren’t subjected to taxation. This is one area where Australian gambling laws are superior to almost every other country on the planet.
While we do our best to provide accurate information on the legal landscape of gambling in Australia, we don’t claim to be lawyers. No statement in this article should be taken as legal advice, as they are nothing more than our own opinions and interpretations.