Onlinegambling.com Looks At Your Australian Options
Horse Racing was one of the first forms of legalized gambling in Australia. By the late 19th century, almost every major town in the country had a racetrack. However, over the last 30 years, casino gambling has replaced horse racing and lotteries as the most popular form of gambling in the country. Card games and other games of chance were viewed as vulgar, lewd and not in keeping with a civil society. Of course, this changed over the years in Australia as it did in other places in the world.
During the first half of the 20th century, most forms of gambling, including casino gambling, were ruled illegal by the Australian government. However, once casino gambling became legal in Australia in the 1950s, it became widespread throughout the country. Within 3 years, there were more than 1,100 clubs and more than 7,000 machines available and the growth has continued to this day.
As land-based began to appear in the early 70’s casinos have continued to grow in Australia and subsequently the Government became more involved in overseeing them. The prevailing attitude all around was that gambling was not only a perfectly legitimate form of entertainment for the participants, but a great source of revenue for the Government.
By the mid-1990s, with all forms of gambling firmly entrenched there, Australia was one of the countries to jump on the online gambling bandwagon early on. However, the passage of the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001 put most of that activity to a halt, though only temporarily until foreign operators began infiltrating the market. The rationale for the law was not that online gambling per se was considered more harmful for Australians than land-based gambling, but concern that the difficulty monitoring and regulating online gambling would result in a loss of Government revenue.
Who Was Affected By The Law
The law is targeted at Australian online gambling operations, making it illegal to advertise or provide real money gambling services online to Australian citizens. Licensed Australian dealers were still permitted to offer sports betting and lotteries provided the wagering takes place in advance of the event. The law does not specify that it is illegal for Australians to gamble online on foreign sites, resulting in these sites proliferating and remaining readily available. However, in the event of any problems, Australians gambling on the foreign-run sites would not have recourse to Australian gambling authorities.
Meanwhile, technically, the foreign operators could be considered in violation of the IGA, but the Australian Government has never made any serious attempt to stop them, and even if they were to try, they are probably operating outside of its scope of jurisdiction.
The bottom line is that the IGA has had very little effect on Australian online gambling. While Australian operators are restricted in what they are allowed to offer, Australian players are not restricted in what they can play online.
Since the enactment of the IGA, there have been no major changes to Australian gambling laws except one. That is the National Gambling Reform Act designed to help problem gamblers, which was passed in 2012 and, for the most part, repealed in 2014. There is also a strong possibility that the IGA likewise may become less restrictive or repealed altogether in the near future.
Gambling in Australia Today
Today, Australian casinos are heavily influenced by the large land-based American casinos, especially those in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. What is more amazing is that at least 80% of all Aussies participate in some form of gambling or another annually. Additionally tax revenues are upwards of $16 billion annually. That number only attests to the Australian gambling phenomena.
Gambling is no longer just for the wealthy Aussie. 2017 has brought with it greater availability and it is now a normal social pastime and an everyman activity.
Currently all major forms of gambling are not only legal in Australia but very popular, including sports betting, horse and dog racing, lotteries, bingo, casino gambling, and poker. Among the casino games, blackjack, roulette, and slot machines, which Aussies call “pokies,” all receive heavy play. In fact, Australians will gamble on just about anything both online and offline. However, pokies are by far the most popular.
Australia’s largest land-based casino, the Crown Casino in Melbourne, attracts over 12 million people yearly. The casinos in other parts of the country are likewise faring very well. So the Australian Government is still taking in a lion’s share of gambling revenue, even without the added profits from most of the online gambling activity. Additionally Australia is one of the most generous when it comes to taxation on gambling winnings. There are no tax requirements for players regardless of win or loss. The vast revenue comes from the owners and operators. So when the revenue is mentioned at being in the billions, one can only surmise how much is actually wagered annually. It is astonishing.
Australia’s booming economy is conducive to gambling. Australia is the 5th wealthiest country in the world. The minimum wage is $600 per week, and unemployment is less than 5%. Between 80 and 90% of the adult population engages in some form of gambling, and most have the funds to do so. Adding even more to the popularity of gambling in Australia is the fact that Australians do not have to pay tax on winnings. Gambling is considered a recreational activity and wagers are therefore not subject to tax. All of these factors together contribute to Australia having the highest national gambling participation in the world. The dark side to these statistics is the staggering amount of money being bet and lost. In 2013, Australians lost $18.4 billion on gambling. The average per capita loss was about $1,300, the highest for any nation in the world.
Problem Gambling in Australia
Australians gamble more and lose more than the people of any other country. Despite this reality, recent years have seen very active gambling and 2017 promises to be even bigger. There is an 80%+ participation rate and it is the highest of any country in the world.
According to The Economist, Australians spend almost $20 billion on gambling yearly, at least $12 billion of which is spent playing the pokies. According to the Australian Government, despite these figures, the vast majority of Australians gamble responsibly. But even if that is true, as many as 500,000 Australians are at risk of becoming problem gamblers if they are not already, largely due to their addiction to the pokies machines.
The following are some of the other disturbing facts about Australians with gambling problems that were uncovered in the above-mentioned report.
- The social costs associated with problem gambling are enormous-at least $4.7 billion per year. Yet only about 15% of problem gamblers seek help.
- 1 out of every 6 people who play the pokies regularly is seriously addicted.
- Problem gamblers lose more than $21,000 per year, one-third of the average Australian salary.
- People are becoming addicted to gambling at a very young age. The highest percentage of pokies players is in the age 18-24 bracket.
- 75% of problem gamblers cite pokies as a problem. The percentage jumps to 90% for women.
- Other research studies show problem gamblers are more than 6x as likely as non-problem gamblers to be divorced, and 4x as likely to have a drinking problem or to smoke daily.
- Children with parents who are problem gamblers are up to 10x as likely to become problem gamblers themselves as children whose parents don’t gamble.
One reason why playing on the pokies can easily get out of hand is that the machines are everywhere, more than 200,000 land-based machines and countless more that Australians can play every day online. Compounding the problem is that on many of the machines it is possible to lose very large sums of money very quickly, like more than $1,500 per hour. While there has been some push to introduce a bill that would make the maximum bet $1.00 and cap losses at $120/hour, its passage seems extremely unlikely, especially since other measures that were designed to help problem gamblers were repealed earlier this year.
Changes To The Situation
Despite the staggering personal and social costs and the fact that problem gambling in Australia is a major public concern, little is being done to reverse the trend. Thus far, the government has not been successful in implementing any significant permanent measures to promote responsible gambling, nor does it seem motivated, since gambling provides 11% of the government’s revenue.
Legislation introduced in 2010 to require pokies players to preset a loss limit for each session, after which they would be shut out, was defeated due to a huge anti-reform movement on the part of people representing the industry. Then, on March 14, 2014, reform advocates received more bad news with the Australian Parliament repealing major features of the National Gambling Reform Act 2012. The new law, The Gambling Measures Act, abolishes the National Gambling Regulator, instead providing for an advisory council, consisting of representatives from the gambling industry, to address the matter of problem gambling in the country. The requirements for gambling machines to have “dynamic warnings” and for ATMs to have mandatory withdrawal limits were also dropped. Instead, responsibility is being turned over to the individual states to decide what, if any, restrictions they wish to impose, provided that they comply with State and Territory Government laws.
The new law in effect removes all of the provisions of the National Gambling Reform Act to help problem gamblers and has been vehemently denounced by anti-gambling advocates. It remains to be seen what the Federal Government’s position will be with regard to online gambling.
Meanwhile, problem gambling in Australia is likely to become more of a problem as more people reach the legal gambling age (18) and online gambling becomes even more widespread. On a brighter note, the Australian Government has agreed to provide $25.9 million over the next four years to support programs for compulsive gamblers.