Gambling regulations, within all jurisdictions which allows the activity to any extent, are paramount to help manage risks such as fraud, corruption, extortion and unprofessional, misleading and deceptive conduct.
Within Australia, gambling is a heavily regulated and authorised industry. However, some areas within the field are legislated and moderated to a greater extent than other areas, thus allowing for a discrepancy between rules and conditions for specific gambling practices.
This page details all the laws surrounding gambling within Australian borders, what can and cannot be done, terms which are required to be met by gambling companies located outside of Australia, and what the future holds for what is now an organised and sanctioned enterprise, and what remains as one of mankind’s earliest activities.
Most importantly, it answers one of the most commonly asked gambling-related questions by many Aussies: “Is real money online gambling legal in Australia?”
Note: Real money online casino gambling is no longer available to Australians. The Interactive Gambling Amendment Act 2016, which took effect in September, 2017, means Aussies can no longer gamble on blackjack, poker or other casino games. They can bet on sports and racing online however. Find out more below.
Offline betting rules and regulations within Australia
The gambling landscape in Australia is unlike any other, and the country has been dubbed the gambling capital of the world. According to numerous reports and consultancies, such as the Productivity Commission Inquiry Report and the H2 Gambling Capital (H2GC), approximately 80 per cent of Australian residents (18 years and older) engage in some form of gambling (the highest rate of gambling across the globe).
Forms of gambling range from sports betting, state and national lotteries, scratch cards, casino games, club and pub video pokies machines, thoroughbred and greyhound racing, poker, bingo, keno, entertainment and financial industry betting, and more.
While the Australian national government does take an active role in the regulation of gambling, the industry is also regulated by individual state and territory licensing authorities:
- Australian Capital Territory – ACT Gambling and Racing Commission
- New South Wales – New South Wales Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing
- Northern Territory – Licensing Commission
- Queensland – Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation
- South Australia – Independent Gambling Authority
- Tasmania – Tasmanian Gaming Commission
- Victoria – Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation
- Western Australia – Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor
These authorities ensure specific gambling requirements, conditions and practices are met by the appropriate gambling operators.
Casinos and the pokies – Casino gambling is regulated by the 2006 Casino Control Act (a a national policy). Each specific land based casino is licensed by their respective state or territory gaming authority bodies, and offer games such as the pokies (also known as slot machines and fruit machines), blackjack, pontoon, roulette, baccarat, poker variants against the dealer (like Caribbean Stud, Mississippi Stud, Three Card Poker and Casino Hold’em), poker cash games and tournaments against other players, craps, sic bo, video poker, pai gow, the big wheel, casino war and more.
At all casinos within Australia, we are seeing more and more electronic gaming machines being made available to patrons; machines which offer blackjack, roulette, baccarat and other gaming variations. This shift to a more interactive environment is largely due to the phenomenal success of Internet gambling (also known as iGambling), which offers greater convenience and superior odds. Expect to see a continuous rise in electronic gaming developments within brick and mortar casino establishments.
Casinos, pubs, RSL clubs and certain hotels are licensed to operate pokies games, with New South Wales officially boasting the most slots machines of all the states and territories (there are approximately 200,000 slots machines in Australia as of 2015, and over 100,000 are located in New South Wales). Western Australia has the most restrictive policy regarding the pokies, with Crown Perth the only site permitted to host such video games.
All licensed gaming venues must adhere to the strict policies set out by state and territory committees, such as following the official minimum pokies payout requirements, which in Victoria is 87 per cent.
Sports wagering and racing – In regards to offline sports and racing betting, Australian residents aged 18 years and above can place wagers at licensed venues throughout the country. The Australian owned Tabcorp Holdings Limited enterprise, which is one of the world’s largest sports betting proprietors, holds the license to offer totalisator (the automated system which operates mutual betting) and fixed odds wagering on sporting and racing events across New South Wales and Victoria, in TABs (Totalisator Agency Board), casinos, bars and pubs (totalling approximately 3,000 venues).
Individual bookies who offer odds and take bets is an illegal practice within Australia. You must be a registered and licensed company and comply with the appropriate betting guidelines to be recognised as a legitimate sports bookmaker.
Lotteries, keno and bingo – State and territory gaming bodies license nationally and locally-run lotteries, and these games are regulated by the following companies:
1. Tatts Group Limited – operates and holds the licenses for the following games: the Saturday Lotto and the Monday & Wednesday Lotto, Oz Lotto, Powerball and Super 66. The company runs these games in Tasmania, Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. It also controls Queensland’s Golden Casket Lottery Corporation and the New South Wales Lotteries, and is the owner of the official keno games administered across Victoria and Tasmania, too.
2. South Australian Lotteries (state government owned) – administers the South Australian Lotto, Keno and The Soccer Pools (a unique lotto games which is based on football match results played across the globe).
3. Lotterywest (state government owned) – manages Cash 3, which is a Western Australian exclusive lottery game.
Scratch cards are also offered by lottery companies and sold at licensed outlets across the country. These cards are also known as instant win cards and scratchies.
Keno games (electronic versions) are hosted within casinos and licensed gaming retail outlets around the country, such as TABs and clubs. Publicly listed gaming company Tabcorp also owns the rights to administer keno draws across Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.
Bingo (which are also known as Housie) is a legal gaming activity, and conducted around the country, within halls dedicated for the game, along with sports clubs, pubs and hotels. You will need to obtain a license through your specific state or territory gaming commission in order to host a public bingo event. Bingo is often played at fundraising and charity events.
Poker – Where can you go to play poker games across Australia? Melbourne’s Crown Casino is the premier location, hosting some of the most prestigious and most expensive tournaments in the world, such as the Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) and the Aussie Millions.
Regular cash games are also aplenty inside Crown’s Poker Room, while other casinos across the country are also permitted to run real money cash games and tournaments. Texas Hold’em is the most popular format, but other well known variants such as Omaha and Five Card Stud are also played. The National Pub Poker League (NPPL) is another popular tournament played at licensed pubs and clubs throughout the country.
Online gambling laws
Gambling on the Internet is also regulated by state and territory licensing gaming authorities, but not all forms of gambling operations are permitted online.
1. Casino titles, slot machines, keno and bingo games – these games are considered ‘interactive’ and it is illegal for an Internet gambling operator (local or foreign) to market (advertise and offer) such real money titles (such as blackjack, roulette, baccarat, pokies, video poker and other casino favourites) to Australian residents, according to the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001 (IGA). Australian based online gaming businesses can offer real money services to residents from other countries, so long as online gambling is a permitted activity within those jurisdictions.
When it comes to offshore online gambling sites, Australians are banned. The Interactive Gambling Amendment Act 2016 was signed into law in August 2017, and enforced the following month. Prior to the bill, secure offshore gambling operators offered their services to Aussies 18 years and older, without any reprisal from the Australian government.
But the new legislation has meant most reputable operators have exited the Australian market and it is illegal for Australian citizens to access and utilise the real cash gaming services being offered by these foreign companies.
If you are located overseas and wish to play real money titles, it is imperative to do so at licensed sites which operate from regulated jurisdictions – we recommend:
These online casinos support global currency deposits and withdrawals, financial transactions are protected with the latest Secure Socket Layer digital encryption technology, they are audited on a regular basis by independent gaming testing agencies such as the eCommerce Online Gaming Regulation and Assurance body (eCOGRA), and boast hundreds upon hundreds of immersive, high quality and interactive games.
The following cash games, which are classified as ‘interactive’ by the IGA, can be found at the online casinos which are no longer available to Australians. International players can enjoy these games, however.
Random number generated powered titles:
- Hundreds of the most graphically advanced and engaging pokies
- Numerous blackjack variants which many Australians would be unfamiliar with
- American, European and French roulette, along with other unique roulette variations
- Baccarat and punto banco games
- All of the most popular video poker titles, including Aces and Faces and Jacks or Better
- Poker titles played against the dealer, and other exclusive online table games
- Virtual sports and racing games
- Engaging bingo and keno variants, along with instant win scratchies and other lottery based games
Live dealer titles (real money games hosted by professionally trained croupiers, with live feeds of all the action streamed directly to a communications device – computer, tablet, mobile phone, Smart TV, etcetera):
- Blackjack tables
- Roulette tables
- Baccarat tables
- Poker (vs dealer) tables
- Lotto draws
And more. Online gambling websites certainly offer a much wider range of games when compared to a traditional brick and mortar casino, and the quality is second to none, with technological developments paving the way for some truly remarkable advances in interactive gaming (including 3D and virtual reality gaming). That is why it is unfortunate Australians can only use this section as an informational guide, as of September 2017.
2. Sports and racing betting – this form of gambling has made its way online seamlessly and without hesitation. Somewhat contradictory, the IGA allows Internet sports and racing betting, but does not permit casino gambling. Certified bookmakers, which are governed by the appropriate state or territory gaming authority, can lawfully offer their services to Australian residents of age. Popular and reputable sites include:
Ample more sporting and racing events are offered through these companies’ websites than offline outlets such as TABs, so if you are a keen punter, you will get far better value for your money by registering accounts with the above betting agencies. Fixed odds betting is available for sports such as AFL, NRL, NFL, cricket, rugby union, baseball, basketball, boxing/UFC, golf, ice hockey, motor sports, soccer, tennis and more. Fixed, top fluctuation, best tote, better div and mid tote betting options are available for horse, greyhound and harness racing events.
The ‘live betting’ features all licensed online bookmakers offer is considered and ‘interactive’ practice by the IGA, and thus illegal over the Internet. Australian-owned companies will allow the punter to call up via the phone instead, to accommodate their needs. However, many bookies incorporated a ‘click to call’ option, which allows punters to place live (in-play) wagers via the Internet (on any platform), by choosing their bet and being connected to an automated call system which asks you if you wish to confirm or cancel your wager. Unfortunately this legal loophole has been addressed in the Interactive Gambling Amendment Act 2016 and is now illegal. You will no longer find it at online betting sites in Australia.
3. Lotteries – OzLotteries.com is a licensed Australian distributor of nationally and state run lottery products, via the Internet. Members (sign up for an account for free) can purchase tickets to all the lotteries detailed above and others (Oz Lotto, Wednesday Lotto, Lotto Strike, Powerball, The Pools, Saturday Lotto, Monday Lotto, Super Jackpot, Mega Jackpot), view results, join syndicate groups and earn lotto points which can be exchanged for free tickets. Considered ‘interactive’ by the IGA, OzLotteries.com is not allowed to sell instant scratch cards.
4. Poker – playing real money poker online, against other competitors, is no long legal for Australian residents. It was always illegal for an operator to advertise or market such services to the Australian public (also considered ‘interactive’ by the IGA). However, operators such as 888 Poker operated in the Australian market until the bill banning online casino gaming was introduced. 888 Poker abruptly left, while PokerStars remained until the legislation came into effect in September 2017. An online poker inquiry attempted to save the game, but it was too late.
The two most influential and suitable platforms for international players, however, include;
888 Poker runs Aussie Millions qualifiers, while PokerStars sponsors the Asia Pacific Poker Tour. Enjoy top customer support and a magnificent range of cash games and sit ‘n go, pre-set and free-roll tournaments.
Where does interactive start and end? Our take on the issue
Reduction in gambling advertisements, better regulations imposed by gaming venues across the country (such as voluntary pre-commitment systems for gaming machines), and stronger counselling initiatives to help problem gamblers have been discussed for years before the government acted on it. The new legislation, in essence, bans online casino gambling like poker but allows online sports betting.
The term ‘interactive’ is meaningless, in the opinions of the team members at Gamble.com.au. When you allow a certain form of online betting but not another, the rationale behind disallowing Web casino betting, for example, becomes illogical. Australia has fast become a betting nation, and the most effective way to control gambling is to regulate all forms of wagering, be it over the Internet, at the casino, or at your local pub or gaming club.
The future of real money gaming is set to take the world by storm, with virtual reality headsets the next, exciting step, but it appears Australia will be left behind. We thought that a review of the IGA would mean restrictions on different operators would eventually loosen, and the entire gambling industry would become regulated and monitored within our borders. But it didn’t.