Is Online Gambling Legal in Australia?
In this article we’ll explore various aspects of legality of online gambling in Australia, including taxation, laws, and some statistics that show how big gambling really is down under. It should make for an interesting read!
You as an Australian resident are free to gamble at any operator that will have you as a client. There can be no penalties, and there’s no tax. It’s important to gamble with reputable and reliable operators though, and fortunately we have a list of these:
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How many Australians are gambling?
An oft-cited figure of 80% of Australian adults being gamblers is no longer true, but Australians are still likely the world record holders as the numbers have settled at roughly 50% of adults indulging in some form of gambling within the last three months.
What is the most popular form of gambling in Australia?
Lottery and scratch tickets are the most popular form of gambling in Australia. Roughly 40 per cent of population have participated in lottery or bought scratch tickets within the last 12 months. Many people don’t even consider lottery and scratch tickets gambling as such, more of a routine that might make you a millionaire, and if we’d exclude this – then pokies are the most popular real form of gambling in Australia. It’s followed by sports betting, keno and casino table games such as blackjack and roulette.
Even if lottery is most popular overall when we look at how many people partake, more than half of the $21 billion Australians spend on gambling each year goes to pokies ($12 million). So, pokies are actually the most-played game.
As young people don’t really play lottery and don’t buy scratch cards, gambling overall seems to be on the decline. Other gambling verticals’ numbers have declined as well, likely due to more strict laws that have restriced gambling a bit and have perhaps made it inconvenient for some people to gamble.
Is it legal for Australians to gamble?
The burden is placed solely on the operators, and it is them who are facing sanctions if they offer gambling services to Australians. The person who is gambling can not be liable for anything. So, you as an Australian are free to gamble wherever you want to – online or otherwise – and there will be no repercussions for you. If anyone is to blame for something, it can only be the gambling operator, not you.
Online gambling Australia banned
Is online gambling in Australia banned? And if it is, when it was banned?
This is a long story that began in 2001 with The Interactive Gambling Act that banned online gambling in Australia. The Act wasn’t really taken seriously by anyone until it was amended to become more powerful, and that happened in 2016.
The Interactive Gambling Act (2001)
The Australian Parliament passed The Interactive Gambling Act in 2001, and this Act was amended several times. In short, the Act bans all forms of online gambling as well as some other things such as in-play sports betting, and declares it illegal to offer such services to Australian residents.
For a long time, almost two decades, the Act wasn’t being enforced so the gambling operators were free to do what they wanted, but in 2016 that changed. When the new law was put into effect, a large percentage of operators fled the market, including some of the best and most reputable brands.
You see, the ban on online gambling in Australia is total and there is no way for an operator to register for a licence. This is the difficult part that made it impossible for the best brands to operate here, but fortunately some quality ones decided to stay, such as Bitstarz.
Interactive Gambling Amendment bill (2016)
After finding out exactly in what ways the operators were circumventing the ban, the government made a new bill, and this one was a really powerful one as it detailed exactly what is illegal and who has the power to enforce the ban and issue penalties (ACMA – Australian Communications and Media Authority).
This changed everything, and almost immediately, within months, a large portion of online gambling operators were wiped out. They decided to leave the market, but many have decided to stay.
Who regulates gambling in Australia?
Gambling in Australia is traditionally regulated by the States, rather than the Commonwealth, though the Commonwealth has recently taken an active role with blanket laws that apply to Australia as a whole.
Gambling laws are legislated federally and enforced and legislated locally. These are the authorities that regulate on a State and Territory level:
- 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
What types of gambling are illegal in Australia?
Australia’s gambling laws prohibit certain gambling activities:
- online casinos, slot machines and poker
- online wagering services that offer in-play live sports betting
- online wagering services that operate without a licence
- online instant lotteries
So, we can see that Australia is being very specific. Sportsbooks can’t offer live betting, as this is deemed to be a great risk to the honesty of sports, and also sportsbooks can’t operate without a proper licence.
Instant lotteries are also banned so the country would maintain monopoly.
Online casinos, slot machines and poker are completely banned. Meaning, no operator can get a licence to offer these to Australian residents.
However, since so many Australians want to gamble, there will always be providers that are willing to risk their neck to offer gambling services to you. Also, we can be fortunate that there are many good ones that even offer welcome bonuses and free spins.
Do you have to declare gambling winnings and are they taxable?
Gambling winnings in Australia aren’t taxed and don’t need to be declared.
The reason for this is that any gambling winnings are deemed to be a result of good luck, and even if you win a lot of money it is expected you’ll have bad luck in other gambling sessions. Gambling is also treated as a recreational activity or a hobby, not a profession, so any winnings don’t represent taxable income. Even lottery winnings and game show appearances aren’t taxed.
Professional gamblers are expected to pay tax. However, to be declared a professional gambler you’d not only have to be a full-time gambler, but would – crucially – have to have business connections to the gambling industry. The gambling activity must be a business or a part of a business. If you do it alone, you’ll never be declared a professional gambler, even if you make millions.
The government chooses to tax the gambling operators instead.
Possible future developments
We can only hope that in the future the Australian government will at least allow operators to apply for a licence, which would go a long way in ensuring trust between the casino and the player. Until then, there are hundreds of operators to choose from and you must rely on sites such as BestCasinoAustralia.com to tell you which ones are good and which ones aren’t.