Legalising Online Gambling in Australia

Later this year, the Australian government is going to decide if online gambling – Australian players at Australian online operators – should be legal again. Casino Reef is always monitoring the situation and will keep this page updated on any progress.

For some context, the Interactive Gambling Act (IGA) was introduced in Australia in 2001, making it illegal for online gambling operators to offer real money online interactive gambling platforms to Australian residents, or even to advertise these services to Australians.

The 2001 law was intended to protect Australian residents from any adverse effects of online gambling and while Australians can still access some online gambling sites, it makes things a little more complicated than for gamblers who live elsewhere (see Legal status of online gambling outside Australia below).

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Timeline of Australian Casinos, Gambling & Legislation

1840s     Card games and horse racing imported by Chinese and then British settlers

1920s     First Australian National Lottery

1968       Government passes referendum on casino licenses

1970s     Government legalises off-track sports betting

1973       First legal casino in Australia opened: Wrest Point Hotel Casino (10th February 1973)

2001       Government passes Interactive Gambling Act (IGA)

2016       Government vote on legalisation of gambling

2019       Australia’s twenty first casino to open: Crown Sydney

The pros and cons of gambling legalisation

Before the introduction of the IGA, online gambling was legal for Australian residents. According to a report commissioned by the Victorian Casino and Gaming Authority back in 1999, before the Act’s introduction in 2001, (Australian Gambling Comparative History and Analysis):

The key historical influences on Australian gambling include:

  • social values and community attitudes, …
  • economic conditions and trends, …
  • political structures and processes of the Australian federal system, … and
  • technological development, …

The report added that “Information technology innovation has significantly altered the gambling industry landscape in the 1990s.”

But the reality of the last decade and a half is that gamblers gamble, offline or online, be they a gambling addict or a once a year, derby day punt placer.

In reality, the Act has done little to stop Australian residents accessing online gambling websites from other countries. This means that all the tax revenue from these transactions is being passed on to governments in other countries.

Legalisation, licensing, regulation, and taxation of online gambling activity by the Australian government would therefore be:

  • realistic as to the failure of prohibition,
  • respectful of an activity 80% of Australians engage in, and
  • responsible for keeping Australian gambling revenues in Australia.

What could happen if online gambling was legalised in Australia?

If a bill was passed to legalise online gambling in Australia but limited the gambling to domains registered within Australia (.au domains), the Australian government would be able to regulate and monitor the gambling figures while at the same time receiving a healthy slice of the pie by taxing the total revenue.

Legalising gambling in Australia has huge appeal to the Australian government. With the tax money alone they could feed 40,000 adults in need every year, house half the homeless population in Australia or subsidise at least 10,290 university degrees.

Q&As on Legalisation of Gambling in Australia

  • What is the Interactive Gambling Act (IGA)?

The Interactive Gambling Act (IGA) was passed by the Australian Government in 2001, to regulate online casino and gambling providers of games like blackjack, poker, roulette or slots. Basically, such operators can offer real-money services to gamblers outside of Australia, but can not offer or advertise them to Australian citizens and residents. Technically, the IGA did not make it illegal for Australians to visit and play at non-Australian interactive casinos and gambling websites.

  •  Is online gambling/internet betting legal in Australia?

Online gambling and internet betting, be that sports betting or otherwise, are legal for Australians to enjoy – in fact, Aussie winnings have no tax applied to them, being treated as a hobby rather than a profession.

 Australians also love a lottery, and every November, their beloved Oz Lotto overlaps with the Melbourne Cup horse race. In 2012, Melbourne Cup Tuesday also saw a record Oz Lotto prize of AU$ 106 million being set and won, known as ‘the Jackpot that Stopped a Nation’ as punters hedged their bets.

  • Can I gamble online in Australia?

Australian citizens and residents are legally allowed to gamble online. It is Australian operators that face restrictions in offering services to Australians. Even if they do, it is unlikely individual gamblers will be prosecuted. Under the current law, it is perhaps better to seek overseas providers for your casino and gambling activities.

  • Will online gambling be legalised in Australia?

Soon the Australian government is going to decide if online gambling – Australian players at Australian online operators – should be legal again. Casino Reef is always monitoring the situation and will keep this page updated on any progress.

  • Regulators and Gaming Authorities in Australia

Partly due to the size and diversity of the country, regulatory authority is, for the most part, managed at the State and Territory level; there are eight main areas, each with its own regulations for your to follow.

The legal status of online gambling outside Australia

The US

In the US, the Wire Act of 1971 blocks betting by phone, without reference to future digital communication channels (including the Internet). The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) failed to add clarity to the situation, focusing as it did on outlawing the processing of gambling transactions by US banks and other financial entities.

Non-US gaming providers’ response was mixed – some avoided the hassle and risk of US government oversight; others continued to welcome US customers, enjoying the reduced level of competition from those who stopped doing so.

Various state and national lotteries are sanctioned, collectively attracting millions of players on a weekly if not daily basis. The most famous lotteries are the US Powerball and Mega Millions draws, each taking place twice weekly, with jackpots as high as $1.6 billion (set by the US Powerball on 13th January 2016)

Canada

In Canada, casino and gambling sites require a license from the Canadian government. Canadian citizens are not prevented from gambling overseas, or online with casinos and gambling providers located outside of Canada. Gambling in Canada – even at a licensed casino – is subject to any state and local laws and regulations.

The UK & Europe

In the UK, the Gambling Commission has licensed gambling providers’ relationship with adults residing in the UK. This tightened the focus on individual operators – a major change from a jurisdiction-based licensing system – but had little direct impact on UK gamblers.

Along with sports betting, the UK shares a passion for national and continent-wide lotteries, notably the EuroMillions (record jackpot of €190 million). But what’s interesting about Europe are the legal online gambling jurisdictions that serve the continent and beyond, including Gibraltar, the Isle of Man and Malta.

The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA), established in 2007 to regulate the online casino and gambling market, is expected to continue to increase its role, powers and impact on the continent.

Asia & New Zealand

The legal status of gambling varies widely across Asia, with some countries where all gambling is legal, and others where gambling is illegal and authorities invest great efforts to crack down on underground casino operators and black market sports betting.

New Zealand offers greater clarity, with its Gambling Act of 2003. It is illegal for New Zealand companies to offer casino or online games for gambling purposes, but the Act stats that it is perfectly legal for New Zealanders to gamble and play at online casinos offered by overseas operators.

Africa & Rest of the World

In Africa, South Africa stands out for its offline casinos, with plenty of gambling tourism moving internally and from outside the country. Most of the continent allows citizens and residents to gamble via overseas operators, but this varies country by country.

A similar situation exists for South America, whereby foreign online casinos and gambling sites are mostly fine to use and accept South American players. Brazil in particular loves national lotteries, and holds a special annual version of its Mega Sena draw, the Mega de Virada, on New Years Eve.

Outside of Europe exist other legal online gambling jurisdictions that serve operators and customers around the world. Some of the more famous include: Antigua & Barbuda, Belize, the Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, Curacao, Cypress, and the Indian reserve of Kahnawake in Canada.

What Casino Reef thinks about legalisation

Clearly, we at Casino Reef are pro-legalisation of most forms of gambling and gaming, both online and off.

But we’re not blasé about it.

We believe in safe and responsible gambling, by adults with the capacity to understand both the risks associated with an individual bet or wager they may choose to place, as well as the long term impact gambling may have on them, their financial stability, and especially their health and personal welfare.

Gambling addiction does not impact every gambler, and affects those who do develop an addiction to different extents and in different ways. And for this reason, we understand that regulation will and should always play some role.

Casino Reef encourages gamblers, their friends, and their family to take a responsible approach to gambling activities, to continue to enjoy activities safely enjoyed by the majority of gamblers, and to protect against any form of abuse.

This page will be updated in the run up to the Australian government’s decision on the legality of gambling and online gambling, and with the law once decided.