Online Casinos in Australia – Are They Legal?

Online Casinos in Australia

Online casinos are incredibly popular in Australia and they make up a huge section of the gambling industry within the country, beaten only by sports betting. As the number of online casinos continues to grow, we’re going to take a look at some of the legal structure that surrounds them.

Australia has had a rather chequered past when it comes to gambling. There have been times where online casinos have been accepted, then banned and then accepted again. The truth right now is that there are a lot of grey areas surrounding them, which we are going to address in this article.

One thing that is worth noting is that Australia has two sets of laws: state and federal. The country outlines what should be done, but it’s ultimately up to each state to enforce that. It’s all that uncommon for state laws to differ when it comes to online casinos and as you will see, it’s not all that black and white right now.

If you’re familiar with laws in the US, then Australia works in much of the same way. The US is actually a lot more confusing given that there are so many states, but even in Australia some states will “allow” access to an online casino and some won’t.

Throughout this article, we will break down how the laws surrounding online casinos in Australia work and more importantly, how they are currently being applied in each state.

What Gambling Products Are Legal in Australia?

The short answer regarding if online casinos are legal in Australia is no, they are not. Federal law states that online casinos are not allowed to be set up in Australia nor are they allowed to accept players on sites that are located outside of Australia.

In fact, this law carries over to several different gambling products as well, including online poker. However, online sports betting, online bingo, fantasy sports and lotteries are all legal, as passed by federal law.

Even though online casinos are illegal, there are plenty of land-based casinos that operate legally with full licenses, just like those presented in https://www.online-casinos.com/australia/. This is one of the many reasons why the current decision to ban any online play is confusing at best.

Just to throw another spanner in the works, you may be aware that there are online casino sites that accept players from Australia. Not only are the government aware of this, but players rarely have any action taken against them for playing.

Why? Well, some states simply turn a blind eye to online casino sites that accept Aussie players. Again, a little like the US, no action will be taken, however, it is technically still banned by federal law.

It’s a confusing situation, so stick with us as we break it down a little more.

2001 Interactive Gambling Act – All You Need to Know

The biggest change about how the Australian gambling sector worked in came about in 2001 in the form of the 2001 Interactive Gambling Act. Some 20+ years later this is still deemed to be the only overriding government act regarding gambling and aside from a few tweaks over the years, remains largely the same, which is why many feel it’s extremely dated.

At the time of its publication, the 2001 Interactive Gambling Act has initially been brought in to regulate what was a rapidly growing market. Online gambling was growing around the world and the Aussie’s love of gambling was a big part of this.

Over 80% of residents in Australia partake in gambling every year. Given that a lot of it is surrounded in confusion about legalities, this is an incredibly high statistic.

This is also a statistic that the Australian Government are well aware of. As a result, not only did they need to get a grip on who was able to access online casinos, they also wanted a piece of the action.

However, in a relatively bizarre turnaround of events, online casinos were banned within the act, along with online poker. It was decided that games of chance were not something that they wanted their residents to be part of and nor did they want the fallout from the inevitable gambling problems within society that often followed.

The argument that poker is a game of chance is another article altogether. 

What was strange about the decision is that they were more than keen to allow the brick and mortar casinos in the country to continue to operate. In fact, they even sanction for new casinos to be built every year, as the numbers start to grow.

The money that is involved with casinos compared to sports is staggering. The average bet size in a casino is much higher, along with the frequency of these bets. This is likely one of the reasons why they still allow a small amount of revenue to be generated from these casinos, instead of having to control a huge market online.

Changes made to the 2001 Interactive Gambling Act have been few and far between. In 2017 an update was released that merely stopped sites from outside of Australia being able to cater for Australian players. They also banned any gambling advertising on TV and radio within the country.

As a result of the 2017 update, 33 online wagering providers left the county within a 12-month time period. For the casino, this didn’t change an awful lot, but for sports and other legal activities, this was massively damaging.  

What’s most confusing about the whole situation from an online casino point of view is that players are still able to get access to casino games that are based abroad. Some states, as we will highlight later, simply turn a blind eye, meaning that they totally disregard the 2001 Interactive Gambling Act.

Now, if we are aware of this and the fact that it’s in the public domain, what is the point of having an act at all if the federal government is going to sit back and just let it happen? This is likely an answer that we will never get and something that runs much higher than we can access.

Who Oversees Gambling Laws – Federal or State?

We’ve mentioned a couple of times already that there are both federal and state laws. Given the size of the country in terms of landmass, it means that states might be hundreds of miles from each other, which means that it makes sense to give them the power to adapt federal law in a way that works best for them.

This separation is much the same in the US, however, in Australia, there is a lot less change between federal and state law. For the most part, across most states, they align, and this is generally down to the fact that there are only 8 states in Australia compared with 50 in the US.

When we talk about any changes to gambling laws within these states, the changes are actually quite small. As we outlined earlier in the article, the following restrictions are in place:

  • Online sports betting – Legal (aside from live betting)
  • Online casinos and online casino games – Illegal
  • Online Poker – Illegal
  • Online Bingo – Legal
  • Fantasy sports – Legal
  • Lotteries – Legal (as long as not instant play lottery)

With gambling, each state has a separate agency that governs its gambling laws. Again, logistically the country would be too big to have just a single agency, so these are broken down as the following:

Location Agency
Australia – nationwide The Department of Social Services
Australian Capital Territory (Canberra) ACT Gambling and Racing Commission
New South Wales Liquor and Gaming NSW
Northern Territory Department of Business, Northern Territory Government
Queensland Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation
South Australia South Australia Business and Trade – Gambling
Tasmania Department of Treasury and Finance
Victoria Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation
Western Australia Department of Racing, Gaming, and Liquor

 

A Breakdown of States in Australia and How They Work Regarding Gambling

To make a little more sense about how these works, we have to look at each state to see what they recognise as legal and illegal. Before we do that, we want to stress that, technically, online casino games are illegal and no state has overturned this law “on the record”.

That being said, Australian players can still get access to online casinos that are based outside of the country.

Australian Capital Territory

Canberra is the capital city of Australia and is based within a state known as the Australian Capital Territory. It’s actually fairly small in terms of population, with a little over 500,000 people, but it does host one of the best land-based casinos in the country, Casino Canberra.

This is a state where you will not be able to access any online casino games at all. They are quite strict at toeing the federal line here and that is understandable given that they are essentially setting the standards for the rest of the country, regardless of if the rest of them follow suit.

New South Wales

New South Wales boasts three casinos within the state and is one of the most relaxed states in terms of online casino players. For the most part, the state turns a blind eye to online activities and many players can access casinos that are based outside of Australia as a result.

One of the reasons that NSW does this is that it would be almost impossible to police if they enforced the ban online. It’s the most densely populated states in Australia with over 8 million residents over a fairly small landmass compared to the others.

Northern Territory

Northern Territory is best known for its sports betting and this is the HQ for all sports betting action and legislation. They only have a single land-based casino in the form of Lasseter’s and have a strict policy for online casino players.

It’s the smallest state in terms of population, but also one of the biggest in terms of the area.

Queensland

Queensland is often referred to as one of the most exciting areas for casino players. There are four casinos to choose from in total and a staggering 47,000 pokies located across the state.

In terms of online casino play, they follow a similar structure to New South Wales in that, for the most part, they turn a blind eye. However, it has to be noted that Queensland has actively chased online casinos serving residents in their state out, citing federal law.

Whilst online casino is likely going to be active in the state, it’s not as easy going as others that allow it.

South Australia

South Australia doesn’t have particularly great ties for any gambling product, let alone online casinos. They limit their pokies to just $10 a go and they also do not accept any notes in these machines, making them hard to access.

There is no online casino access within the state at all, as far as we are aware.

Tasmania

Tasmania is a small state in terms of residents, but it’s one that loves to gamble. They host the oldest casino in the country in the form of the West Point Hotel and Casino and have over 3,500 pokies with just 500,000 residents.

Online casino access is limited, but this is another state who are more likely going to turn a blind eye to any action.

Victoria

Home to the Crown Melbourne Casino, Victoria is one of the best places in the country for casino games. Not only do they boast a huge range of sporting events throughout the year, but they also have a massive 30,000 pokies scattered across the state.

However, it’s not great news for online casino player as they are also one of the strictest states in the country. They’re one of few that have taken legal action against casinos for offering their services to players in the state. Nothing became of this, but warning shots were fired.

Future of Online Casinos in Australia

The future for online casinos in Australia is not a particularly bright one. The lack of any movement regarding easing of the laws or even rumours of companies wanting to get involved means that it’s likely not going to change any time soon.

It’s a strange one for Australian citizens given that they can access online sites in some states, but not others. Also, for the authorities to crack down in some areas means that any case surrounding people illegally accessing online casino sites wouldn’t have a huge amount of merit given the lacklustre enforcement of the rules.

That being said, it’s not all doom and gloom. The fact that sports, bingo and lotteries are all accepted means there is a change that the tides could change. The countries displeasure at “games of chance” is highly hypocritical given they allow brick and mortar casinos that offer the same game.

We would assume that they are worried about not being able to get a piece of the action in terms of taxes and revenue. Online casinos bring in more money than any other gambling product and it feels like they have decided that if they can’t properly tax it, they don’t want to know.

There could be an odd saviour for online casinos in Australian and that could come from the United States. The way that both countries work in terms of state and federal laws are very similar. The US is now starting to open up to online gambling and with this could lead to something similar in Australia.

Also, the fact that so many other aspects of gambling are legal is a good thing. Even having land-based casinos is a really big positive and whilst at the minute it can seem a little bleak, there is scope for this to improve.