Australia has stood on the liberal side of the law when it comes to gambling for the majority of its history. After all, the world still calls us the luckiest country even today, and gambling was only part of the equation as to why we earned that title.
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It all started a long time ago when the first official casino in Australia opened its doors — The Mindil Beach Casino. The casino had a license and offered over 700 pokie machines, about 30 table games, and sports betting. There were enough gambling activities to match everybody’s taste buds. In 2004, the Skicity Group bought it for $195 million, and today, we know it as the Star Casino. It is one of the main attractions in Sydney and the second best casino in the country. The first spot belongs to the Crown Casino in Melbourne.
Internet gambling arrived in the 90s — And almost all of the worldwide nations instantly loved it. To gamble from the comfort of your home was revolutionary, and the Australian customers appreciated it the most. Online gaming machines, including online poker machines, became so popular that an average Australian lost nearly $1000 annually. Other estimates tell us that Internet gambling was growing by 15% every single year. The gambling industry supported this, not only in Australia but in Europe and the USA as well.
Unfortunately, not everything is always sunshine and rainbows — If you overdo any activity, it becomes a burning problem. All of a sudden, a significant number of Australians developed gambling addiction or developed a gambling problem, as we refer to it nowadays. As anticipated, the Australian Government had to do something about it, and that is how it came up with the Interactive Gambling Act in 2001. This legislation was passed in order to protect the nation from all the harm that may come along with gambling. The law prohibited all casinos based in Australia from offering their services to people living inside the borders of the country.
Additionally, it prohibited any promotion and advertisement of online casinos in the media and national events. It is important to mention that betting on racing and sports doesn’t fall under this category, and the same goes for the lottery.
The fines for all of those who don’t respect the IGA rules are intense — the penalty is over $1 million for the operators.
Dormant Period for over a Decade
From 2001 to 2016, not much has changed. Everybody was content, and everything worked as planned. Alan Tudge, the Minister of Human Services then brought a lot of changes to sports betting — He made everything more strict.
- Sports bettors can officially demand self-exclusion and lock their accounts on one particular website or all online betting places.
- Bookmakers are now obliged to offer the pre-commitment scheme to players. This allows players to set limits on how much money they spend and how many hours they spend playing.
- Online Bookies are not allowed to offer free pokies credits to players anymore. The aim was to protect Aussie gamblers from losing too much and from going deeper in debt.
The Interactive Gambling Bill, which is technically a more authoritarian version of the IGA, was passed in 2017. Its goal was to make the rules even stricter and chase away online gambling indefinitely. As a result, most of the international online casinos already ran away from the market. This is because, as of 2016, they couldn’t offer their services without an Australian license anymore. And since a license for online casinos doesn’t exist anymore, obtaining one is impossible. Gambling regulators ensured to make it impossible for any international casinos to operate online while on the country’s territory.
You Can Still Bet Online
Here’s the catch with the IGB — the country didn’t ban you from gambling online — it simply doesn’t allow online casinos to let you gamble on their websites. So if you want to gamble at a casino operating outside of Australia, there is nothing to stop you from doing so. You won’t be fined, as it is not illegal for you to bet.
Luckily, online casinos from Europe and the USA still like us, and they greet us with open arms. The only setback is that Australia doesn’t license any of these casinos, so if you don’t receive your winnings, you won’t be able to turn to your country for help. But not everything is lost — many online casinos have proper licenses that more or less guarantee you will receive your money. Just make sure to find the best ones — European casinos have thousands of games to offer by some of the best software makers in the industry. Additionally, a big number of them support responsible gambling, so you can always lock your account in case you start losing too much money.
VPN, which stands for Virtual Private Network, is a tool that lets you fake your IP address, making it seem as if it comes from another country. It enables you to fool any website into believing you’re from Finland, for example, while you’re actually browsing from Australia. Here’s why Aussie players used this for a while, as well as why they stopped. Firstly, Australians believed that they couldn’t bet in international online casinos because online gambling was banned in Australia. But once they realised this wasn’t the case, they stopped using VPN. More importantly, many websites will register that you’re using a VPN and immediately ban you.
Who Are the Gambling Regulators?
Firstly, each territory in Australia has permission to regulate and supervise betting and how the casinos work independently. However, central governments are often not the ones that have the final say — Regional authorities can also make decisions if they see it fit. Subsequently, the Australian Commonwealth Parliament can always make the law harsher or more flexible, and the local governments will need to find a way to adjust. Here are all the local authorities in Australia.
- Australian Capital Territory
The ACT Gambling and Racing Commission regulates and checks all the casinos in the Australian Capital Territory. This commission also has a website with information about gaming machines, licenses, gambling addiction, and the gambling Code of Conduct. It ensures fair and transparent gambling, but it also offers protection from any external criminal influences.
- Northern Territory
The regulatory body in this territory is called the Gaming Machine Commission, and it licenses all the slots and other gaming machines. Unfortunately, the GMC doesn’t have a website, but it does publish an Annual Report where it provides all the information on their operations.
- New South Wales
Office of Liquor, Gaming, and Racing is the body that guarantees fair play in this territory. It even controls charity events. However, there is another regulatory body that issues the licenses though — The Casino Control Authority.
In Queensland, it is the Office of Gaming Regulation that regulates all the casinos, gaming machines, Bingo, and Keno. This regulatory body has a website that’s easy to navigate, where you can find all the possible information about the territory policies.
- South Australia
The Independent Gambling Authority ensures the supervision of casinos and fair play in SA. As for the monitoring of the licenses that IGA issues, that falls under the jurisdiction of the Office of the Liquor and Gaming Commissioner.
In this part of Australia, the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation is in charge of all the betting activities. This jurisdiction also has a website where you can follow all of its operations and changes in policies.
- Western Australia
The Office of Racing, Gaming, and Liquor licenses the casinos in WA. It also regularly sends out inspections that track and rate casino operations. Fair play is a top priority for this licensing body.
The Tasmanian Gaming Commission is an independent jurisdiction body of Tasmania. Furthermore, it works in collaboration with the Tasmanian Department of Treasury and Finance. This department offers all the operational assistance to TGC, and it seems to be working very well — There are no criminal gambling activities in this territory.
The AOPA Disapproval
AOPA, which stands short for Australian Online Poker Alliance, is trying its hardest to fight back the latest regulations on online poker. Ever since the government banned interactive gambling services, Aussie poker players weren’t happy with this decision. They feel quite ignored, as they don’t see the point in banning virtual poker, given how it is not any different from the one in land-based casinos.
Moreover, the alliance conducted research in which they established that almost all of the poker enthusiasts continued to gamble online even after the ban. This can be harmful for a couple of reasons, but the essential one is that these players are gambling on the black market. This is dangerous for both their money and their winnings. Some of the players even explained how they couldn’t gamble with actual currencies but with what seems to be some sort of fake money that is later exchanged for real money. You can see the problem in this process — there is absolutely no guarantee that players will ever receive the money they previously invested or won.
The AOPA members, Joseph Del Duca and Oliver Gill, made some legitimate points that actually reached the government and made them question their decisions to some extent. However, we have yet to see if this organisation can make any significant impact.
Australia Doesn’t Tax Your Winnings
This is probably the best thing about Australian gambling laws. In its eyes, gambling is merely a recreational activity; therefore, it is not taxable. This sets Australian gambling laws apart from those of any other country in the world.
For now, playing slots and poker in Australian online casinos is impossible. However, it doesn’t mean you can’t gamble in the international online casinos, just make sure to find one with an outstanding reputation. Most importantly, online sports betting is still very much legal, and even the international gambling audience can bet as long as they come from one of the designated countries. And while we’re patiently waiting to see if there will be any changes in the Interactive Gambling Bill, we can always go and enjoy one of the many land-based casinos. Best of luck!