Online Gambling in Australia
In 2017, Australia passed the Interactive Gambling Act Amendment of 2016 which modifies the original Interactive Gambling Act of 2001, stiffens fines, and confers upon the Australian Communications and Media Authority to confer Civil Penalties upon operators, advertisers, broadcasters and Internet Service Providers without even going through the court system. Fortunately, other than possibly losing a few online casino providers, nothing much has changed for the punters themselves.
In terms of the proclivity for gambling of the average Australian, he/she finds himself amongst the world’s leaders in gambling with a per capita gambling spend of over $1,000. Australians also enjoy their, “Pokies,” (General term for slots and/or video poker machines) as well as Table Games in land-based casinos. By far, the largest share of gambling spend comes from punters getting their money down on sports, racing and similar events.
Regarding the official position of the Government on what they term, “Interactive Gambling Services,” most forms of sports/race betting are legal, but casino-style games are not. Online wagering services are gladly provided by companies such as William Hill, Ladbrokes, and more.
These wagering services are licensed and regulated…
… by individual states and territories and are further regulated by the “Interactive Gambling Act,” (IGA) and the Australian Communications and Media Authority. (ACMA)
While William Hill, Ladbrokes and the other companies offer interactive casino-style gaming products in other jurisdictions, they are prohibited from offering the same to Aussies. As a result, there is no way for an Australian (at least, not one located within the country) to get any money down on casino-style games at a provider licensed in the country. Therefore, they must go to offshore companies, known as prohibited interactive gambling services to the Aussie Government, to get their action down.
The Interactive Gambling Act of 2001 has served to render these providers as operating illegally within the country by allowing Aussies to play at their sites. However, the original Act was very ineffective as it required the ACMA to report any such conduct to police authorities, who essentially had no great desire to do anything about it.
In fact, from 2001-2016…
…there were exactly zero prosecutions tied to prohibited interactive gambling services.
In 2017, the Senate and House have passed the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill of 2016, which has resulted in a few minor changes to forms of gambling that were already legal within the country, but also provides the ACMA with more regulatory authority as relates unlawful prohibited forms of gambling.
The first effect that it has is the licensed sportsbooks will no longer…
…be permitted to offer, “In-Play, Click to Call,” wagering.
That refers to placing wagers during live sporting events in a way that does not require the customer to communicate with a representative of the bookie necessarily directly. This means that a customer must have a direct voice-to-voice conversation with the book to convey the event, wager type, how much is to be wagered and the result. None of this bet information is permitted to be collected in an automated way.
The Amended Act still focuses on operators as opposed to individual punters, but it confers upon the ACMA more authority to take action against companies operating within the country illegally. Additionally, the fines for doing so have increased and new fines have been instituted for companies, third-party advertisers and anyone else who should broadcast, datacast or publish information designed to get Australian punters to offshore sites.
While any criminal proceedings would have to go through the police, who probably still won’t care at all, the ACMA obtained the capacity to levy these fines themselves under the Amended Act, so that there is no need to go through the court system. The ACMA was additionally authorized to communicate with other licensing jurisdictions to inform them that one of their (the other jurisdiction) operators is operating illegally within Australia.
During the first months of 2018, the Australian Prime Minister gave his confirmation on the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment Bill 2017. This allowed the government to ban any gambling advertisements on TV, radio and the Internet until 8.30pm.
Back in September 2017, another ban on advertisements was included in The Gambling Regulation Amendment Bill 2017. It proposed that such advertisements would be prohibited on roads, public transport vehicles and within 150m from any schools. On top of that, the bill proposed by the State Government of Victoria included a 500AUD daily withdrawal limit, as well as a limit on the number of gaming machines per venue – 105, and across the state – up to a max of 27, 372.
By May 2018, the House approved the Interactive Amendment (Lottery Betting) Bill 2018 in response to the Interactive Gambling Act 2001, all in order to ban betting activities on the lottery/keno draw outcomes. This regulation covers betting on lottery draws in Australia and abroad. Soon afterwards, in June, the Senate gave their own approval of this bill, and January 2019 was set as the date when it would start being enforced.
The AMCA proposed an extension on the broadcasting ban in July, and was subsequently approved in August. Under this extension, Internet streaming services were also restricted from broadcasting before 8.30pm during live sports events on all aforementioned mediums, starting from September 28th, 2018.
Additionally, the Western Australian government introduced a different ban in September – advertisements on lottery services, coinciding with the ban regarding betting on draw outcomes. A 2,500AUD fine for synthetic lottery (online lottery and keno) players was also imposed at that time.
The Southern Australian government, on the other hand, replaced their existing Independent Gambling Authority (IGA) with the Consumer and Business Services (CBS) as the new authoritative body of the gambling industry, effective 1st of December, 2018.
Near the end of the year, in November 2018, the Gaming Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 was passed by the Legislative Assembly of the Australian Capital Territory on 27 November.
One of the key points from this regulative refers to the increase in GGR percentages that are distributed to charitable causes…
… from 8% to 8.8%.
The other one stipulates…
… that all the clubs and gaming venues need to give up 20% of their poker machines licenses by 1 April, 2019, as well as 30 April 2020.
The protection of the rights of people engaging in interactive gambling activities was formally proclaimed in December 2018. For this purpose, the Federal Minister for Families and Social Services announced the commitment of all Australian governments to the National Consumer Protection Framework of April, 2017.
Nevertheless, penalties remain moderately low or not regulated with clear-cut provisions. Players are expected to experience less variety in their choice of operators; however, new markets such as fantasy sports are seemingly on the rise, promising further development of the online gambling industry in Australia.
On a final note, the matter of taxes has also been addressed during the last legislative year. Several significant changes have taken place since then:
- For one, the Victorian Government imposed an 8% point of consumption tax, effective on all bets made with operators licensed in and out of state borders;
- The Australian Capital Territory took the same course in the following months, with a rate of 15%;
- The New South Wales State Government set the rate of their point of consumption tax at 10%. These measures are supposed to come into effect by January 2019.
- Ultimately, the Western Australia Government passed their own legislation on a point of consumption tax at a rate of 15%. This tax policy begins implementation from January 1st, 2019, on gross wins, with an exemption point of up to AUD 150k in order to protect the interests of smaller operators.
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