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Gambling in Australia

Gambling is extremely popular throughout Australia, and has been for many years, it is estimated that over 80% of Australian adults engage in some kind of gambling activity making it the highest registered rate in the world. Over 3% - around AUD 19 billion - of the average Aussie household expenses are related to legal gambling, both online and offline. That is more than the amount spent on beauty and personal care and twice the amount spent on household gadgets.

Although the federal government has some involvement in regulating gambling activities, this is mainly in relation to advertising and online gambling, while the individual states have much power to apply their own gambling laws in other areas.

The combined number of brick and mortar casinos, cruise ship casinos, horse and dog racing tracks well exceeds 400, resulting in readily available opportunities for wagering. Since gambling is considered a recreational activity and the money won is treated as a matter of luck instead of an earning, the government does not tax players’ winnings.

Online Gambling in Australia

Since gambling is so popular down under, it is surprising that online gambling is quite restricted. While lotteries and sports betting, including horse and dog races, are legal, casino games are not. Although the Australian government does give licenses to companies that want to run internet casinos, those online casinos are forbidden from accepting Australian players or advertising real-money services to them according to the Interactive Gambling Act (IGA) of 2001.

Nevertheless, there are currently around 2,200 foreign gambling sites accessible to Australians and an increasing number of players use them. Since the legal restrictions are explicitly targeting operators and not the players, punters are at liberty to use whichever site they desire.

According to industry and regulator estimates Aussies are doing exactly that, and doing it in large numbers. Current spending on online gambling is estimated at AUD 1.5 billion, with over AUD 900 million (around 4% of total gambling expenditures) going to unlicensed foreign operators, mainly to sportsbooks, casinos and poker rooms. The rest is spent through licensed domestic sites, especially internet sportsbooks.

A government review of the IGA released in March 2013 contains several recommendations encouraging gradual legalization. This could see some “low risk” games being allowed at first, such as online poker (especially tournaments), while still ruling out the legalization of “poker machines” (i.e. slots).

The process, however, may take several years to finish since momentum is unlikely to pick up until after the September 2013 federal elections.