THE LEGALITY* OF ONLINE GAMBLING IN AUSTRALIA

The world of online gambling is constantly evolving, and with it, local legislation.

In November 2016, a new law was introduced to parliament and it was passed in August 2017. Named the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016[1] it is an amendment to  “the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (the IGA) [designed] to implement the Government’s response to recommendations in the 2015 Review of the impact of illegal offshore wagering”.

Sound confusing? Like all legalese, it is a bit.

Basically, its goal is “to tighten restrictions on offshore operators that operate online gambling services in Australia… set out a series of illegal gambling services and others that are permitted to operate if they meet certain exceptions… [and] give the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) power to issue warnings, infringement notices, civil penalties and injunctions.”[2]

What does this mean for you as an Australian player? Well, this law effectively outlaws offshore gambling providers from offering their services to Australian players. Any provider found to be breaching these laws can be liable for huge fines and the ACMA has indicated that these will be enforced.

As a result of these changes, most online casino operators are no longer offering their services to Australian players. Here at Casino Reef we are now unfortunately unable to recommend or promote online gambling services for players located anywhere within Australia.

If you’re interested in reading the legislation for yourself, you can check out the below links:

[1] https://www.communications.gov.au/departmental-news/amendments-interactive-gambling-bill-passed

[2] https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/Bills_Search_Results/Result?bId=r5755

SHORT HISTORY OF AUSTRALIAN GAMBLING

Australians have always loved gambling, going a long way back! This is in no way a comprehensive summary of where Australian gambling has been, however, it is a brief glimpse at some of the basics.

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

2001       Government passes Interactive Gambling Act (IGA)

2016       Government vote on legalisation of gambling

2017    Amendment to Interactive Gambling Act 2016 passes Senate, effectively outlawing online gambling providers from operating in Australia

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

BACKGROUND ON LOCAL GAMBLING LEGALISATION

Before the introduction of the Interactive Gambling Act (more below), online gambling was legal for Australian residents. More accurately, perhaps, according to a report commissioned by the Victorian Casino and Gaming Authority back in 1999 – Australian Gambling Comparative History and Analysis – the ramifications of online gambling weren’t quite understood, or in a sense, recognised at all. As the report reads:  “Information technology innovation has significantly altered the gambling industry landscape in the 1990s.”[1] Something, which the government now needed to address.

THE INTERACTIVE GAMBLING ACT 2001

The Interactive Gambling Act[2] 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 could still access some online gambling sites, it made things a little more complicated for local residents to play, than for gamblers who lived elsewhere.

EFFECTS OF THE INTERACTIVE GAMBLING ACT

In reality, the Act did little to stop Australian residents accessing online gambling websites hosted in other countries (hence the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016, as above).

Many feel the recent move to prohibit overseas casino operators from providing services to Australian gamblers is a shame, as legalisation, licensing, regulation, and taxation of online gambling activity by the Australian government would likely be:

  • Realistic as to the failure of prohibition
  • Respectful of an activity 80% of Australians engage in[3] (the highest rate in the world!)
  • Responsible for keeping Australian gambling revenues in Australia

ENFORCING GAMBLING LEGISLATION

According to the Australian Government Department of Communications and the Arts: “The main offence provision of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 is clause 15: the offence of ‘providing an interactive gambling service to customers in Australia’… Accessing and using the interactive gambling services is not an offence. It is also allowed to companies based in Australia to offer their gambling services to gamblers located outside Australia with the exception of those countries that were called ‘designated countries’.” [4]

It continues: “It’s not an offence for someone to gamble online. Also, the Act does not override the laws of other jurisdictions, such as Australian states and territories and other countries.”

Be aware that if you choose to gamble using an illegal service, and lose your money – even through such fraudulent activities as refusal to return your deposit or pay your winnings – you have no recourse, as no government body will back you up in the face of an illegally operating site.[5]

SUMMARY

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

And while we think gambling is a fun hobby, more than anything we recommend paying attention to local legislation when choosing to make an online wager – as such we can no longer support online casino providers offering services to Australian residents and are no longer able to provide information about online gambling to players residing in Australia.

This article should not be considered legal advice. Local legislation, restrictions and enforcement are subject to change. In addition, we have no responsibility to update this page for events or circumstances occurring after the date of its initial publication.

[1] https://assets.justice.vic.gov.au/vcglr/resources/bb81f943-d854-40de-8bab-b09d8bbd610f/australiangamblingcomparativehistory.pdf

[2] https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2016C00607

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gambling_in_Australia

[4] https://www.communications.gov.au/what-we-do/internet/internet-governance/online-gambling

[5] https://www.communications.gov.au/policy/policy-listing/interactive-gambling-act-2001