A guide to online gambling Laws in Australia

In Australia, the gambling policy and regulation have been the states’ responsibility and not of the Commonwealth. However, recent technological and communication developments in the gambling industry and the public concern on the impact that gambling has on society have attracted the Commonwealth’s attention, as these fall under its constitutional responsibilities.

Online gambling significantly impacts regulatory mechanisms, community welfare, and revenue collection. As a result, Australia’s Federal Government has had to pass legislation prohibiting all Australian online gambling sites from providing any such services to Australians.

The Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (IGA) made it illegal to provide interactive gambling activities like online casinos and any game of chance or the mixed chance for real money to customers in Australia. However, the law does not prohibit Australians to gamble online. The IGA was enforced to curb the negative impacts and risks associated with online gambling, meaning that the gambling operators become the Act’s target.

The Interactive Gambling Act (IGA) 2001

In the quest for a national approach to curb the perceived problems of online gambling in Australia, some changes were made to the law. A council of Commonwealth, territory ministers, and state were established with a focus on these four items:

  • to stop the further expansion of the gambling industry.
  • limit the negative impact gambling poses to the families and the community in general
  • internet/online gambling
  • consumer/gamblers protection

On May 19th, 2000, Senator Richard Alston, the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and Arts in Australia, announced a 12-month moratorium legislation project, followed by the introduction of the Interactive Gambling (Moratorium) Bill on August 17th, 2000. The bill prohibited all interactive gambling services except for those offered before May 19th, 2000, for one year.

The Interactive Gambling (Moratorium) Act 2000 was introduced in the same year on December 21st. Announced by Senator Alston, the Act prohibited companies from providing online gambling services to Australian residents starting from March 27th. The bill was introduced in April 2001 and assented to on July 11th, 2001. The Interactive Gambling Act 2001 prohibited gambling operators from advertising interactive online gambling services to Australian residents. The law prohibited the provision of interactive gambling services to Australians. However, it did not hinder Australians from playing at other online casinos. Australian-based companies could offer their services to most of the world as long as they did not offer gambling services in the designated countries.

Operators were not accused of anything if, with due diligence, they were unaware of offering gambling services to Australian residents. This forced the operators to put up warnings and alerts before users sign up. According to the Act, a complaints-based system where Australian customers could access the relevant and prohibited internet gambling content was established. Online lotteries and sports betting are still legal in Australia, with some unlicensed off-shore betting companies offering bets to Australians. While the IGA made it illegal for Australian-based operators to provide online gambling services to Australian residents, the individual Australians can still gamble online. However, the IGA has done little to keep the foreign operators from the Australian market. Millions of Australian gamblers can still play poker and other casino games on the web.

Is online gambling in Australia illegal?

The Interactive Gambling Act (IGA) still allows for online gambling to operate in Australia. And while the law allows the federal government to regulate the industry, the state and territory authorities regulate gambling at the second level. Any game that involves a mix of skill and chance like video poker, blackjack, craps, baccarat, and roulette is illegal in Australia. It is therefore unlawful for Australian players to engage in these games. Online poker is one of Australia’s most popular casino games, but the operators are not allowed to operate online poker sites.

Online bingo is also legal in Australia, with some computer-simulated bingo games being offered by some casinos. While some online lotteries may still be illegal in Australia, players can still enjoy games like lotto and keno and bet on the lottery outcome. While online instant lotteries are illegal, bets on numbers probability and the outcome of simulations are allowed.

Online gambling: Whose responsibility is it, Federal or Territory?

Australian Capital Territory (ACT)

The ACT Racing and Gambling Commission controls and regulates racing, gaming, and betting activities in the Australian Capital Territory. The commission seeks to ensure that all the three activities are conducted with integrity, honesty, and without criminal influence. The commission has a comprehensive website on interactive gambling, legislation, the casinos, gaming machines and other betting forms, problematic gambling, and the gaming industry’s code of conduct.

Queensland

The Queensland Office of Gaming Regulation regulates machine gaming, art unions, lotteries, casinos, and keno in Queensland. Its website comprehensively covers legislation, statistics, topical issues, interactive gambling information, amongst other policy issues.

New South Wales

The NSW Department of Gaming and Racing website provides information on all matters – from legislation to responsible gambling. The department is tasked with the proper and balanced development of liquor, charity, racing, and gaming industries in NSW, with the licensing and supervising of the NSW Casino Control Authority’s operations.

South Australia

Casino operations and gaming machine licensees supervision in South Australia is the responsibility of the Gaming Supervisory Authority. The Licenses are obliged to get the approval of the Liquor and Gaming Commissioner.

Victoria

The Casino and Gaming Authority regulates and monitors the gambling activities in Victoria. Its website comprehensively covers legislation and policy issues, media releases, licensing, and frequently asked questions, among other matters.

Northern Territory

While the licensing of the gaming machines is the NT Gaming Machine Commission’s responsibility, gambling legislation is administered by the Racing and Gambling Authority in the Northern Territory. Although both bodies do not have websites, the Annual Report of the Authority contains all the information on their operations.

Tasmania

An independent authority that regulates and controls gaming in Tasmania – the Gaming Commission. Tasmania’s Department of Treasury and Finance branch, the Gaming Operations, collectively work with the commission.

Western Australia

WA gambling legislation is administered by the Office of Racing, Gaming, and Liquor industries. The Office is responsible for the Gaming Commission’s operational functions, including but not limited to licensing, audit, and inspection of permitted gaming services and casinos.

Are gambling winnings taxable in Australia?

In Australia, income from gambling is regarded as a result of luck or as a hobby-derived income. Australian players’ gambling winnings are therefore not subject to income tax. The player might need to pay some online casino charges in the form of deposit or withdrawal fees that might be subject to currency conversion. The gambling operators, however, do pay taxes. The amount of tax that the operators pay depends on the game type, state, and the casino’s/ poker machine location. They also pay taxes to the government for the rent of gambling licenses as they are required to have one to be in operation.

Are there any recent legal developments affecting Australia’s Gambling situation?

The poker and casino situation in Australia is likely to remain the same for some time to come. The IGA, in their report, suggested stopping the flow of Australians` money abroad by licensing Australian companies, which would let them operate local online poker rooms where Australians could play on licensed and regulated sites, this does not seem to get the political support needed. Some legislators had also proposed a law that would bar Australians from gambling on foreign sites. The law would force banks to process online gambling transactions as unsuccessful. The banks argued that such a scheme would have been tough to put in place, as many online gambling transactions were still legal in Australia.

The IGA 2017 reforms

There have been several changes to the IGA laws, with the most recent changes of 2017 seeking to combat foreign groups from providing illegal online gambling services to Australian residents. This saw quite many wagering providers withdraw from Australia. The other reforms include:

  • Publication of a register of licensed interactive wagering providers by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
  • Additional rules to have people follow the set-out rules.
  • Prohibiting some operators to offer Australians a line of credit.

To date, the federal interactive gambling laws in Australia still prohibit:

  • Instant online lotteries
  • Online wagering platforms with ‘in-play’ betting
  • Online wagering services without an Australian license issued by the state or territory
  • Regulation of credit provision to Australian customers from interactive wagering service providers