Gambling Regulation in Australia: Facts, Figures & Trends

Online gambling continues to be very popular in Australia, but the gambling habits of Australians keep changing from decade to decade. Aussie gamblers used to be fond of chance-based games such as scratchies, lottery games, electronic gambling machines, and keno twenty years ago.

But now, most of them prefer skill-based games, including poker, table & card games, horse betting, and sports betting. Playing pokies, blackjack or roulette at online casinos is just a way to relax, unwind, and have fun for most Australians, but many end up getting addicted to the activity. 

How Australians Gamble 

According to the Australian Gambling Research Centre’s report of 2015, which shed light on the gambling habits of Australians, 76% of the 6.8 million Aussies who gambled regularly played lottery games. Of the remaining, 22% played scratchies and 21% played electronic gambling machines.

Those who preferred playing other gambling games were less than one million. Of these players, 14% bet on the horse racing events, 8% bet on sports events, 8% played keno, 3% played casino table games, 3% played bingo, 2% participated in private betting games, and 2% played poker. 

Around 59% of the gambling population played only lottery games or combined lottery games with two or three other forms of gambling. 

Although scratchies and lottery games were most popular among Australians that year, they spent lesser on lotteries than they did on electronic gambling machines, horse betting, sports betting, poker, and casino table games. 

The report also identified the following groups of gamblers: 

  • Older couples living away from their children mostly played lottery games. 
  • Most of the people relying on social welfare systems played electronic gambling machines. 
  • Retired women who lived alone played bingo games. 
  • High-income men, including older men living in remote areas, bet on horses and sports events. 
  • Most of the sports bettors in Australia were young people residing in major cities or urban areas. 

The report also pointed out that gamblers spent around $8.6 billion on gambling that year. They spent around 42% of this amount on lottery games, 21% on electronic gambling machines, and 15% on horse betting. 

While most players spent half of their bankrolls on one gambling activity, lottery and keno players combined their favourite activity with other forms of gambling and spent on both.

Single employed men who hadn’t completed more than 10 years of education and lived with many other adults spent more on gambling than highly educated men who lived with their families. 

History of Gambling in Australia 

The following is a compilation of interesting facts about the history of gambling in Australia: 

  • A horse race held at Hyde Park in Sydney in 1810 was the country’s first gambling event to be recorded. 
  • Australia organized its first lottery game in 1880. 
  • The country introduces pokie machines into pubs and clubs in the 50s. 
  • Australia’s first online poker room was Planet Poker, which went live in January 1998. It wasn’t a roaring success because of technical issues and poor Internet connectivity. 
  • Paradise Poker went live in Australia the following year. It was more successful than Planet Poker and offered a variety of poker games such as Omaha, Seven Card Stud, and Texas Hold’em. 
  • Dutch Boyd, a professional poker player, launched Poker Spot, the first online casino with tournaments, in 2000. 
  • PokerStars and PartyPoker arrived in Australia in 2001 and held many qualifier satellites that helped players win seats to major live poker tournaments with huge prize pools. 
  • The world’s first online casino went live in the early 90s, and today, playing at internet casinos continues to be popular among Australian players. 

Gambling Laws in Australia 

Right from the beginning, the Commonwealth of Australia has given states and territories the power to frame their gambling policies. Accordingly, states, regions, and territories across Australia create gambling laws and regulate popular gambling activities to boost revenue. 

In recent years, however, the Commonwealth has started showing more interest in gambling regulations. The reason for this interest is public concern over the negative impacts of gambling on Australian players.

Also, the Commonwealth had to take notice when gambling companies started implementing the latest communication technologies in their businesses, and online and mobile gambling become popular. 

The government noticed that online gambling not only led to a flow of wealth outside the country but also created a larger number of problem gamblers within the country. This prompted the government to create a set of strong laws to prevent online gambling sites from offering their services to Australian residents.  

Here is a list of developments in Australia’s online gambling regulations in recent years: 

Prime Minister John Howard announced that the Commonwealth would support a national approach to the issue of problem gambling on Dec 16, 1999. He also said that a council of state, territory, and commonwealth ministers would be created to prevent the further expansion of gambling in the country, to minimize the effects of problem gambling on communities and families, to curb illegal online casinos, and to protect players. 

Gambling Policy and Regulation

The Interactive Gambling (Moratorium) Bill was introduced on Aug 17, 2000 to prohibit online gambling services launched on or after May 19, 2000 for a year. 

Senator Alston announced on March 27, 2001 that law would soon be enacted to prevent Australian companies from offering online gambling services to residents. 

The Interactive Gambling Act was passed into law in 2001 with the following aims: 

  • Prevent companies from providing online gambling services to Australian residents. 
  • Establish a system to curb online gambling services, based offshore or onshore, that target Australian residents. 
  • Prevent gambling businesses from advertising their products and services in Australia

The Interactive Gambling Amendment Act of 2017 attempted to strengthen the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001. These amendments were the result of complaints that the existing laws were not strong enough to deal with unlicensed offshore online casinos that accept Australian residents. 

Interactive Gambling

The amendments accomplished the following: 

  • Increase penalties for gambling businesses that violate regulations
  • Expand the existing list of gambling offenses
  • Prohibit licensed bookies from using VoIP technologies to offer in-play betting
  • Stop bookies from offering credit lines to players
  • Give the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) greater power to investigate illegal online gambling sites, block them, and issue infringement notices and formal warnings.   

Are Australians Losing Interest in Gambling Recently? 

It certainly doesn’t look like Australians are losing interest, but a recent study by Roy Morgan, a market research company, reveals that they are gambling lesser than they once used to. 

According to new data collected by Roy Morgan, Australians above the age of 18 have shown less interest in gambling. In 2008, 64.7% of Australians above 18 used to gamble at least once in three months, but in 2018, the number reduced to 47.9%.

Gambling Participation by Category 2008 v 2018

Interestingly, the number has been falling year over year. Data collected in 2017 showed that 50.1% of adult Australians gambled at least once in three months. 

The study also shows that Australian interest in gambling has declined for all forms of gambling. Participation in lottery games and scratchies has fallen by 16.3% while participation in poker games has fallen by 11.9% and in sports betting has fallen by 5.9%.

Gambling participation is lowest among people in the age group of 18 – 24 (25.7%). This is followed by people in the age group of 25 – 34 (37.5%). It is highest among people in the age group of 50 – 64. 

According to Norman Morris, the industry communications director of Roy Morgan, slightly less than half of the Australians aged above 18 participate in gambling activities despite data that shows loss of interest in gambling.

Despite the development of mobile and Internet betting, Australian players continue to be fond of scratchies and lottery games, poker machines, and sports betting. 

Morris says that the decline in gambling participation is because of the emergence of other forms of entertainment coupled with awareness programs on problem gambling and gambling addiction.

Although mobile betting has gained popularity over the years, it remains less popular among the younger population. 

Future of the Gambling Market in Australia 

If you visit Australia, you will not find a single Australian who has never tried to gamble at least once in his/her lifetime. The Aussies love for gambling is well-known and despite studies that show a decline in participation in gambling activities, AU will continue to remain one of the top gambling markets in the world. 

It is also worth noting that the Australian gambling industry is quick to donate to worthy causes. For example, representatives of the gambling industry have contributed millions of dollars to the Red Cross, the Australian Bushfire Relief Fund, and various wildlife funds. 

In recent years, the government of Australia has been taking gambling regulations seriously as it wants to boost revenue and curb problem gambling. The intention is to create a regulatory framework that would protect vulnerable sections of society from the negative impacts of gambling and create a safe and secure environment for those who love to gamble. 

The government began amending its existing laws in 2018. During this year, Australian gamblers spent more than AU$140 million on various gambling activities.

The amendments sought to reduce the amount of money Australians spent at offshore internet casinos by giving the AMCA the power to crack down on illegal online casinos. 

The Australian government is most concerned with the issues of unregulated spending and gambling addiction. Authorities have conducted studies on these issues and introduced various measures to deal with them.

For example, several restrictions were imposed on the use of credit cards at land-based and online casinos. Banks have signed agreements with gambling companies to limit the amount that can be deposited using credit cards. 

Following a parliamentary meeting of Dec 2019, it was decided that gamblers should be given the option of excluding themselves from online gambling sites for a definite or indefinite period. If you feel that you have been gambling too much, you can request the online gambling site to exclude you from its services for a minimum of three months. 

You can also request a lifetime ban, which will prevent you from accessing the online gambling site again throughout your life. Self-exclusion is held to be an effective method of preventing gambling addiction and problem gambling. 

Australian casinos are also using a new technology called Face Recognition Technology (FRT) to prevent underage gambling and problem gambling. FRT allows land-based casinos and online gambling sites to establish player identity and to prevent barred or self-excluded players from gaining access to their premises. 

Considering the decline in Australian participation in games of chance, one can conclude that the government’s attempts to curb problem gambling and block illegal casinos have paid off. By 2018, the percentage of Australians claiming to have gambled at least once during the last three months went down by 24%. 

The Australian gambling industry has a bright future, especially as the federal government is regularly introducing amendments to its existing laws to make them more effective.

As a result of these amendments, the Australian gambling market is becoming healthier. The country has successfully blocked several illegal offshore online casinos and saved its residents from losing their money at these sites.

Thanks to these efforts, the number of gambling addicts and problem gamblers is sure to decrease in Australia.

Australia may also legalize and regulate its online casino gaming industry shortly. This will not only lead to an increase in the number of internet casinos licensed in Australia but will also create a safe and secure online gambling environment for Australia’s gambling enthusiasts. 

Since licensed casinos operate under the strict eye of the law, players can expect a high quality of gambling services, fast payouts, fair games, high levels of security and privacy, and support for responsible gambling.

It will also stop Australians from signing up at offshore online casinos that are not licensed in their country. You can finally play at online casinos that won’t disappear with your deposits and winnings.