The popularity of online gambling in Australia has grown exponentially since the industry's emergence over the past decade or so, with around 80% of Australians gambling at least once a year, be it on sport, slots or casino table games.
According to data from The Economist, adults in Australia gamble more per capita than in any other nation in the world. But what makes online gambling in Australia any different from anywhere else in the world? Take a look at the current shape of gambling in ‘The Lucky Country’, as it’s occasionally known by hopeful punters.
In spite of the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001 (IGA), which prohibits Australian online casino operators from offering ‘real money’ interactive gambling to Australian residents, it actually remains legal for the country’s citizens to access and use online casino sites. As it’s not, therefore, a criminal offence for individuals to play online poker or casino games, many Australians freely use popular online casinos such as Bet365 Casino and Winner Casino to fulfill their gambling needs. Whether such casinos are violating Australian gambling laws by allowing players to access their sites remains a slightly grey area, but no serious attempt has yet been made to prevent Australians from using the services, or to crack down on the operators themselves.
Online lotteries and sports betting in the country are both legal provided that they are associated with a land-based business. However, in-play sports betting is classed as "interactive" gambling, therefore falling under the IGA and making it illegal for Australian online bookmakers to offer it to residents. Nonetheless, Aussie gamblers still make use of in-play betting offered by overseas bookmakers who either ignore or are unaware of the IGA.
Thankfully for Aussie punters, money won from gambling is not taxable Down Under.
The first, legal, land-based casino in Australia opened in 1973 and, ever since, poker machines - or ‘pokies’ as Australians like to call them – have been a big draw for gamblers across the country, with the affectionate slang term often extended to describe gambling machines in general. The table game itself has also grown in popularity, and Australia has hosted a number of poker tournaments in recent years, including the inaugural 'World Series of Poker' Asia-Pacific event in 2013. It is no surprise, then, that online poker varieties have also become popular (despite the weakly implemented IGA), along with other ‘traditional’ casino games such as online blackjack and online roulette.
Australians use online providers to legally bet on a variety of sports, with popular choices including horse racing, rugby (the National Rugby League), football (“soccer”) and, of course, cricket. According to a 2007 survey by Sweeney Sports, 59% of Australians were interested in cricket, more than any other sport. There are other big annual betting events, such as the Australian F1 Grand Prix, but another fan favorite is Australian rules football.
Few people outside the country know much about it, but Aussie rules football, particularly the Australian Football League (AFL), is extremely popular across the nation. In some of the southern states, it even trumps cricket and the Nation Rugby League. Aussie rules attracts more live spectators each year than any other sport in the country, so it’s no wonder that Aussie rules betting is a popular pastime for many Australians, with online bookmakers such as Betfair Sports offering Aussie rules betting markets for all the league games and major matches.
A lot of the legislative focus on gambling in Australia is geared towards poker machine regulation. Politicians have declared anti-gambling legislation a priority, and, in a bid to restrict the use of pokies, ideas have been floated to introduce ‘smart cards’ which would control the amount a gambler could spend through pre-set loss limits.
As things stand, online casinos have largely managed to escape the attention of the Australian government, primarily because they sit outside the realistic limit of parliament’s purview. And while the government has decided in the past not to legalise online poker and in-play betting - despite widespread expectation that it would - Australian punters can carry on gambling online, happy in the knowledge that they're not affected by the IGA.
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