Australia’s official approach to gambling is similar to many countries around the world and while it’s not a practise that is openly welcomed, it is tolerated and, at the same time, highly regulated. The Interactive Gambling Act of 2001 is the current piece of legislation that governs how operators and customers must approach betting and while it is restrictive, it certainly isn’t prohibitive.
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The Act of 2001 was brought in as a direct response to the rise in internet gambling which had taken hold in Australia, just as it had in many countries across the globe. The first sportsbook has gone online in 1996 and dozens more had followed in the five years that had intervened.
Under the law, it is an offense to advertise any gambling products via any medium so you will not see TV adverts for bookmakers as you would in England for example. That ban extends to the internet, to magazines and newspapers as well and any operator found guilty of transgressing this law faces heavy penalties.
The act also makes it illegal for any firm to offer real money interactive gambling services to anyone in Australia. This covers poker and casino although sportsbook is permissible with certain stipulations. For example, Australian citizens are not allowed to make in play bets online although these are allowed over the telephone or in person in a physical betting shop. The aim here is clearly to stop any form of impulse betting with the extra few minutes it takes to dial the phone or visit a betting shop giving the customer more time to consider their bet and decide whether or not it is a good option.
Full details of the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001 are widely available and can easily be accessed via any Google search.
In general terms, the Act of 2001 was set up to protect citizens of Australia and to punish any operators who happen to transgress. Aussie residents are treated fairly in this respect and that fair treatment extends to the tax laws relating to betting.
Australian citizens do not pay tax on any profits that they make from gambling as this is considered to be revenue from a hobby rather than a profession. Any profits that an individual makes are more than offset elsewhere so the profit and loss will ultimately balance themselves out.
Instead, all taxes are paid by the operators themselves in return for the ability to trade in Australia. Heavy regulations are laid down for anyone looking to operate and tax payments are just one of several criteria that need to be met in order for a trading license to be issued by the government.
The age at which it becomes legal to gamble in Australia is 18 and this applies to both the physical and the online world. Anyone looking to play at one of the country’s casinos or in a betting shop or on one of the thousands of pokie machines up and down Australia must therefore be at least 18 years of age.
Similarly, online operators must take steps to ensure that their customers are over 18 and on sign up, new account holders must be able to provide a passport or some other form of ID. As you might expect, there are strict penalties for operators who fall foul of these rules and knowingly allow younger players to gamble. Equally, those penalties can apply if the company in question hasn’t taken sufficient steps to ensure that the player in question is of legal age for gambling.
A Brief History
Gambling essentially began in Australia when the first of the European settlers arrived in the country in the 18th century. At the time, these were relatively crude dice and card games and while the wagering element was unregulated, the financial arrangements were largely made between friends and family so things were not getting out of hand.
Gambling only really grew towards the end of that century as organised sport began to take hold. The first recognised horse race meeting was held in Sydney in 1810 and organised betting syndicates were operating in more shady circumstances and helping to take the practise of betting underground.
In time, other sports followed as cricket, rugby and soccer made their way over from the UK and Europe while Australians also developed their own, rather idiosyncratic sport with Australian Rules Football taking hold.
Rules and regulations were set up to ensure that bookmakers were properly licensed although it was inevitable that some illegal gambling went on.
Away from the sports fields of Australia, betting on casino games was generally frowned upon and it wasn’t until 1973 that we saw the first ever bricks and mortar casino being built in the country. Over 40 years later, the Wrest Point Hotel in Sandy Bay Hobart remains a popular venue and an important source of tourist revenue in the area but it didn’t exactly spark a flood of imitators.
In 2017, 44 years after the first casino was opened in Australia, the government had just given the go ahead to the Crown Sydney Casino which is set to be completed in 2019. Even with the new structure in place, there are less than 30 casinos across such a vast country and it’s unlikely that we will see any huge increase any time soon.
That is a situation that adequately reflects the overall attitude to gambling in Australia. The government knows that it is popular and if they were to take steps to outlaw the practise altogether, it would only help to drive things underground.
Gambling is therefore an accepted part of Australian life that is tolerated by the government who do what they can to make sure that operators are licensed and their citizens are not exploited by them. The 2001 Interactive Gaming Act is just an extension of that – a piece of legislation that came in as an answer to the rise in internet betting and the latest in a long line of rulings Australia has made in order to keep things in line.