If we say that Australians love gambling, it would be an understatement. The country has the largest number of gamblers and gambling machines in the world. The Australian love for betting has led to a rise in problem gambling and addiction to gambling among its residents.
Therefore, the government of Australia amended its online gambling laws to give the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) the power to block illegal online casinos.
Australia’s gambling laws are quite clear. Casino gaming is clearly illegal, but many forms of gambling are just restricted. Australians can bet on sports events, but the law does not allow them to place in-play bets.
Playing online lottery games is perfectly legal, but instant win games such as scratchcards and certain casino games are against the law.
The country’s law-enforcement agencies do not crack down on residents who place bets on online casino games. But recently, they have gone out of their way to prevent residents from accessing offshore online casinos.
We strongly advise Aussie players to steer clear from illegal online casinos simply because it is not safe to deposit and wager real money at these sites. You are better off playing at Australia’s land-based casinos or playing online lottery games at licensed Australian gambling sites or betting on sports events at online bookies licensed in Australia.
Let now have a closer look at Australia’s most important gambling law—the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001.
Online Gambling Laws in Australia – Interactive Gambling Act 2001
The Interactive Gambling Act of 2001 clearly prohibits companies or individuals from offering online casino gaming services to Australian residents. This means that online casino games such as online pokies, blackjack, craps, poker, and roulette along with games of mixed skill and chance are not permitted in Australia.
But this law applies only to providers of online casino gaming services, offshore as well as onshore belonging to Australian companies or foreign companies.
The law aims to eliminate the negative impact of gambling on Aussie players. Since it intends to protect Australian residents from problem gambling, it targets only operators and not individual players.
Australian Internet service providers (ISPs) use the Interactive Gambling Industry Code to deal with offshore online casinos. This code gives ISPs the power to provide one of its approved filters and restrict access to illegal offshore online casinos.
The law also aims to make Aussie players aware of the dangers of playing at illegal online casinos. Many offshore online casinos that illegally accept players from Australia fail to return deposits or credit winnings. Since these online casinos are not licensed in Australia, residents cannot expect the government of Australia to give them justice.
If you notice operators illegally advertising their products and services in Australia or accepting bets from Australian residents, you can bring it to the notice of the ACMA.
Online Gambling in Australia – The Current Situation
Australian online gambling laws are highly tolerant as they do not impose a blanket ban on online gambling. Many forms of online gambling, including lottery games and sports betting, are legal in Australia. Moreover, the government does not penalize residents who sign up at online casinos licensed in offshore jurisdictions.
In Australia, gambling is regulated at two levels—the federal level and the territory or state or regional level.
The following is a list of authorities and organizations that regulate, license, and supervise gambling activities:
- The Licensing Commission in the Northern Territory
- The Independent Gambling Authority in South Australia
- The Tasmanian Gaming Commission in Tasmania
- The Department of Racing, Gaming, and Liquor in Western Australia
- The ACT Gambling and Racing Commission in the Australian Capital Territory
- The Office of Liquor, Gaming, and Racing in New South Wales
- The Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation in Queensland
- The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation in Victoria
How to Find Legal Online Casinos in Australia
You will find a few licensed online gambling sites that offer permitted games in Australia. But these are few and far between because of the legal restrictions. On the contrary, you will find hundreds of online casinos licensed in offshore jurisdictions that accept players from Australia and allow them to wager, deposit, and withdraw in AUD.
The government of Australia does not make it illegal for its residents to register and play at offshore online casinos. But you must understand the risks of playing at an online casino that is not licensed in your own country.
We have listed the dangers of playing at illegal online casinos in the next section.
Dangers of Playing at Illegal Online Casinos
In Australia, any online gambling site that is designed to look as if it is a legal Australian site and specifically targets Australian residents is illegal. You can easily access these sites, but cannot expect the same quality of customer protection that a site licensed in Australia can provide.
Illegal gambling sites offer games prohibited by Australian law, such as casino poker, roulette, blackjack, pokies, scratchies, and in-play sports betting.
Here are the dangers of playing at such illegal gambling sites:
- Illegal online casinos offer poor customer service.
- They either withhold winnings without reason or take too long to process payouts.
- They may shut down without a warning and vanish with your deposits.
- Even after you stop using its services, the illegal online casino may withdraw money from your bank account.
- The Australian authorities may block these sites any time, and if this happens, you will not be able to access your account, deposits, and winnings.
If you have signed up at an offshore online casino and are unable to retrieve your deposits or winnings, you can do one of the following:
- Hire a lawyer.
- Approach the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
- Complain to the online casino’s Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) provider or licensing authority.
Australia’s Attempts to Block Illegal Online Casinos
As we previously mentioned, recent amendments to Australia’s online gambling laws have given the ACMA the power to block illegal online casinos.
According to the report in The Guardian, the ACMA has blocked and will continue to block illegal offshore online casinos, making it difficult for residents to access them.
The government of Australia feels that this is a necessary step as Australian players wager more than $400 million at illegal online casinos every year and face difficulties in receiving their winnings.
ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said that players signed up at rogue casinos hardly stand any chance of justice. She also said that 65 illegal online casinos withdrew from Australia after ACMA launched its crackdown.
According to Communication Minister Paul Fletcher, these sites were responsible for a loss of tax revenue worth $100 million every year.
The first to be blocked were FairGo Casino and Emu Casino, both licensed in Curacao and featuring Australian animals and themes to attract residents.
Fletcher said that the ACMA has the power to seek civil penalty orders and issue warnings to residents to protect them from illegal online casinos, but none to take direct action against online casinos that operated from far away and did not even reveal their ownership.