What the Law Says: Online Gambling in Australia

Online Gambling in Australia

Online Gambling in Australia

To many, Australia is the top country for gambling, and we are not talking about casinos only. When you find yourself Down Under, walk into virtually any bar and pub across the continent. There, unlike in traditional pubs around the globe, you’ll find rows of slot machines (or pokies, as they call them) with rows of Aussies pulling the lever.

In Australia, gambling has grown so much that around 80% of all Australians have been involved in some form of gambling. Gambling industry in Australia has reached incredible heights. Citizens spend an estimated AUD$24 billion (USD$18 billion) every year.

Slowly but surely, it has become a nationwide issue. More and more people have started experiencing problem gambling. In fact, a study showed that 2,1% of Australians (around 350,000 people) had been diagnosed with compulsive gambling, half of which had faced severe issues. So much so that 17% of all suicidal patients were problem gamblers.

One way the Australian Commonwealth Parliament decided to combat this social problem is by banning Australian online gambling. However, how effective are these laws? Is there really no way for Australians to play online casino games for real money? Let’s check out.

Land-Based Casinos

Currently, each of the eight Australian states and territories has at least one casino in its jurisdiction. In the following few years, new ones are to be built. Suppose that’s one way to fight problem gambling. The Australian government itself doesn’t deal with regulating casinos and gambling houses. They’ve delegated this to state and territorial level. Each of them has its own regulatory body:

Online Gambling in Australia

  • New South Wales: Office of Liquor, Gaming, and Racing
  • Northern Territory: Licensing Commission
  • Australian Capital Territory: ACT Gambling and Racing Commission
  • Queensland: Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation
  • South Australia: Independent Gambling Authority
  • Western Australia: Department of Racing, Gaming, and Liquor
  • Victoria: Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation
  • Tasmania: Tasmanian Gaming Commission

Perhaps the most popular casino in Australia is The Crown Melbourne Casino in Victoria, thanks to its annual Aussie Millions poker tournament in which many famous pro poker players participate. When it comes to live gambling in general, there are no real restrictions. Every form of money gaming is legal. Casino floors operate with pokies, poker rooms, blackjack, bingo halls, etc. Sports betting is also legal, including in-game bets.

Gambling winnings are not taxable. Only professional gamblers have to report it as part of their income tax. So, if you’re a leisure gambler, you don’t have to worry about taxation.

Interactive Gambling Act

When it comes to online casinos, Australia decided to introduce the IGA in 2001. With this act, the government has forbidden providing online gambling services, including most of the major casino games. The word of the law states that you cannot play online slot machines, poker, blackjack, roulette, and craps in Australia. Under this act, three specific operations were prohibited:

  • provision of interactive gambling services to customers in Australia;
  • provision of unlicensed regulated interactive gambling services to customers in Australia;
  • provision of Australian-based interactive gambling services to customers in designated countries.

The IGA also forbids online gambling sites to advertise real-money services to customers in Australia. The penalty for breaching the IGA can vary from $220,00 per day for individual operators to $1,2 million per day for gambling companies.


In the beginning, the wording of the IGA didn’t do itself much good. Soon, websites found a way to work around the Act without getting in legal trouble. For example, in-game betting (live betting which takes place during the event) was forbidden in the IGA, but you could still place a bet by making a phone call. Other legal vaguenesses allowed for offshore companies to provide online poker services.

To fight this, the Australian Parliament passed an Amendment Bill in 2016. With this, they’ve solved issues which gave space to ignoring the IGA. Furthermore, they took another important step. PokerStars, a major poker website, was still offering its services to Australians. So, the government contacted the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement. Now companies in New Jersey face penalties if their sites offer services to Australians. As a result, gambling magnates like PokerStars and Partypoker stopped operating in Australia.

Casinos australia

Is Anything Legal?

Yes. As a matter of fact, the ban doesn’t include auto and horse racing bets, as well as sports betting (it does forbid in-game betting, though). Additionally, online lotteries are also exempt from the IGA, so you can play online bingo (or housie, as they call it, which is especially popular in Australia when it comes to raising funds for charity) and other lottery games. Except for instant-win scratch card games, as they are similar to what online casinos offer.

Repercussions for Players

There are none, actually. The thing is, the IGA as a whole is pretty weird with its ambiguous and liberal approach. There are a lot of grey areas, similar to how the United States handles online gaming. For example, the IGA in no way regulates the player’s activities. If you abide by the law, you can gamble online legally without any penalties. Basically, the law states that when an Australian gambles at an online casino, it’s the casino’s fault, not the player’s. As a result, players from Australia are perfectly safe to gamble online.

The IGA regulates what is allowed to online casinos. Online casinos based in Australia cannot offer their services to their compatriots. However, they are completely legal to operate. They just have to work with foreign customers. So, as a non-Australian, you’re welcome to play in an Australian online casino wherever you are, except for, of course, a list of restricted “designated countries.”

Offshore Casinos

Offshore casinos represent a haven for Australian players looking for a bit of online gambling fun. This is another example of how the IGA doesn’t do its job properly. The thing is, the Act forbids an online casino to allow Australian players to create an account and play for real money. But how do you impose an Australian law act on someone from, say, Costa Rica? You can’t really, can you? Since penalties are not imposed properly, online casinos simply don’t care about the Interactive Gambling Act.

As a result, you can find hundreds of websites which openly invite Aussies to join. They even accept AUD as currency and have the design centered around the Lucky Country motifs. Consequently, as an Australian, you’re pretty much free to play anywhere you want, as long as it’s not an Australian website. However, as there’s no way for the government to regulate an offshore casino’s practices, there’s also no way for them to force them to pay up. This leads to late payments and, in the worst-case scenario, outright denied payments. It’s not insane to think that the only reason they allow Australian players is because they don’t care about governments. So why would they care about players? You have to make sure to avoid such casinos, which brings us to the next issue.

Online Gambling in Australia

How to Pick the Right Casino

The number one problem for Aussies (and other gamblers in general) is how to pick the right gambling website. Don’t open the first website that pops up on Google hoping that they are good Samaritans looking to give you the most pleasurable experience available. Before dealing with a casino, you need to do research. There are several casino review sites for you to find out about a particular casino’s reputation and respectability.

There are a few things you should look out for. First of all, check how many (if any) complaints were filed against them. One or two can be a fluke or from some players who are sore losers, but chances are, if there are many of them, something’s amiss. It’s only natural to avoid websites with a lot of disgruntled customers unless you wish to become one of them.

Furthermore, another thing you must be aware of is the casino’s terms and conditions. It’s not the most enjoyable activity to read through these, but it’s a must if you want to avoid predatory terms and clauses. You need to make sure that they haven’t given themselves the right to deny you your winnings and cancel your account for some unrealistic reason. Besides, check for ambiguities in the language so that you don’t get tricked by a loophole (don’t be the IGA).


A good way to judge a casino is by licensing. There are many licensing commissions which are on the lenient side. They don’t set high standards to their licensees and they don’t bother themselves with overseeing their casinos’ practices. As a consequence, these websites have an open playing field and can do pretty much anything in their will. So, to avoid this, pick a casino which has a license issued by a reputable regulatory body, such as the UKGC (United Kingdom Gambling Commission) and the MGA (Malta Gaming Authority).

Casino Bonuses

When you type ‘online casino’ in Google search, around 751 million results will show up. Naturally, not all of these are gambling websites, but you get the idea. To stand out from the rest, websites use bonuses. Basically, in order to persuade you to create an account at their casino, they are willing to give your free money for it.

As a player, you should take advantage of this. With these promotions, you get free chips to play with and increase your chances to land a winning spin or participate in a winning round. Just make sure you’re aware of all the clauses that come with the bonus. All of them have wagering requirements (the amount of time you need to play through the chips to be able to withdraw them). Different casinos offer different conditions, so you should go on a hunt for the most favorable ones.

Handling Withdrawals

You should also check out how much time it will take until the money to arrive to your bank account from the moment you claim withdrawal. It’s normal for them to have an approval period for your request, as well as pending time for the funds to be processed. There’s no reason for you to wait for your winnings for weeks or even months.

As a rule of thumb, payments take 3-5 business days. Anything above 7 business days is not something you should be pleased with.

Play Online, It Is Fine

Australian law forbids online gambling. That’s clear. What’s not clear is how exactly they plan to effectively get rid of it. Home-based casinos are allowed to operate online for foreign players. Australian players themselves are in no way affected by the law, as it’s perfectly legal for them to gamble online.

Australians can play at virtually any offshore casino which allows them to do so. They just need to be wary when they’re choosing which website they’ll play on. The Internet is not easily regulated, and there are a lot of websites which take advantage of that. All in all, you don’t have to worry about the legality of it, just make sure you’re playing at the right place — the time is always right.

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