If you fancy a flutter, the land down under is likely the place for you. Australia has morphed into a real gambling hotspot over the past few years and decades, with sports betting being a particularly cherished pastime of many citizens. And yet, for all that it is enjoyed by much of the population, just what are the laws regarding betting in the former British colony – and how is the act perceived in the modern-day?
History of Gambling
After the arrival of the British in the 18th century, gambling quickly began to take hold in the sunbathed land. Just as in Britain, horse racing gained popularity, with an event in Sydney’s Hyde Park reportedly being the destination of the first-ever recorded gambling event. Around 70 years later, the first-ever lottery game was organized in Australia, at a time when the island was still under British rule. The first slot machines came into use after Australia became an independent state, with the 1950s ushering in these innovations in pubs and clubs.
As for casinos, the first legalised land-based site was the Wrest Point Hotel Casino, opened in Tasmania in 1973. This was the result of years of campaigning for a casino to be placed on the island, as Tasmanian laws were seen as separate from those on the mainland. Wrest Point soon incorporated many of the traditional gambling games that had already existed in Australia for years, such as blackjack and roulette.
Laws of the Land
Gambling is – and to an extent always has been – very popular in Australia. Recently gathered research indicates that over 80% of adult Aussies engage in gambling of some kind, which is among the highest percentage of any Western nation.
Today, state territories have different rules concerning what type of bets and establishments are permitted. There are dozens of casinos spread across the country, and many territories took a leaf out of Tasmania’s book following their successful experiment in the early 1970s. Poker is a real punter favourite in Australia, which has led to the rise of so-called Pokies – poker machines that can be found at bars up and down the land.
However, with the rise of the internet, Pokies are slowly being replaced by online gambling sites, which have seen a huge boost in users over the past few years. Electronic Pokies are similarly popular with players, while sport betting online also continues to flourish. In response to this surge in growth, the Australian government passed the Interactive Gaming Act in 2001, which looked to control and reel in gambling games.
Presented under a pretext of public protection, the IGA doesn’t directly criminalise the players, but it does impose penalties on operators who illegally offer their services to Australians. Equally, the authorities won’t pursue operators who target overseas players, meaning that, generally speaking, all players are protected. There are some exceptions to these rules though, as pre-game sports betting (i.e. anything that isn’t in-play) is protected under Australian law.
Online Gambling Options
Australian players have been able to pick from hundreds of different online gambling sites available to players all around the world, with multiple offshore jurisdictions seemingly awarding operating licenses to these sites. The vast array of games; from Pokies to table games, to online poker and sports betting, means that punters are no longer limited by mere geography. With the law protecting players, they are free to explore the fascinating world of online gambling. Click here for an Australia legal casino list.
The Current Landscape
As it stands, Australians appear to have a very wide and diverse interest when it comes to gambling. Traditional betting on sport and horse racing events remains vitally important to the industry; while contrastingly, the rise of online gambling offers younger generations a chance to explore new avenues. The national love affair with Pokies and Poker more generally shows no sign of ceasing anytime soon, with online Poker events also proving to be big draws with Aussies of all ages.
Building on the legacy of the Wrest Point Hotel, several casinos are now littered across the country. As of 2010, there were 13 legal land-based casinos, with a lot more being planned for the future. Further to this, there are also 4700 lottery outlets, which just goes to show Australia’s desire for betting options of varying descriptions.
To summarise, Australia remains one of the most open and receptive nations when it comes to gambling. While operators within its borders may face legal strife, for players the landscape is very favourable, with several excellent options at their disposal. Australians spent more money on bets than any other nation in the financial year of 2015-16, which speaks to the health of the industry overall. This trend shows no sign of slowing down any time soon.