Australia is one of the world’s big gambling markets. The country has a cultural legacy of betting on horses – the sport’s Melbourne Cup is a public holiday. That combined with recent changes to legislation to increase their citizens’ access to legal betting means Australia has some of the least-restrictive laws against gambling worldwide.
80% of adult Australians will participate in some form of legal gambling in the next year. That data comes from a study by the New South Wales Office of Liquor, Gaming, & Racing. The same study found that Aussies lose an estimated $21.5 billion a year on legal games of chance and skill, a number that puts the country at fifth place worldwide.
What you’ll find on this page:
- Top Gambling Sites for Australians
- Legality of Online Gambling
- Popular Game Types
- Largest Australian Casinos
Funding Your Account
Australian gamblers have loads of convenient deposit options. VISA and Mastercard deposits are the easiest instant deposit methods while using e-wallets like Skrill, Neteller and Click2Pay which require a few minutes to make an account (but it’s smooth sailing once you have one set up).
You can also deposit money to Aussie casinos via direct bank transfer. The easiest ways to withdraw money from online casinos that accept Aussies is to use the same method that you used to deposit – this goes for credit and debit cards as well. I recommend check withdrawals only if none of the other options work for you for some reason.
The majority of gambling wagers in Australia are made on pokies and online casinos appreciate every poker machine playing customer they can get – therefore most Aussie players get to enjoy the best online casino bonuses (which are usually offered to pokie players since they make the casinos the most money).
Online pokies are available to Aussies on iPads and smartphones exactly like they are to the rest of the world. Just like every other industry, online casinos have noticed during the past few years that their customers need mobile versions of their casinos and the landscape looks better and better for mobile users.
Is Online Gambling Legal in Australia?
In the early 2000s, with the rapid expansion of gambling over the Internet, the Commonwealth of Australia took interest, supposedly due to public concern over the negative impact of gaming on Australian citizens.
The biggest result of the Commonwealth’s newfound interest in gambling regulation was the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001, as discussed above. Rather than make online gambling explicitly legal or illegal, as was expected, the IGA made the waters a little murkier. Targeting hosts of “interactive gambling services” rather than the customers means the IGA doesn’t have any impact on actual Internet gambling.
The IGA makes it illegal for “. . . anyone . . . to provide an interactive gambling service to a customer physically present in Australia.” The Commonwealth put some hefty penalties in place for any group that disobeys these restrictions – the maximum penalty is between $220,000 – $1.1 million AUD per day of illegal operation.
The Interactive Gambling Act
Passed in 2001 by the Australian Commonwealth Parliament, the Interactive Gambling Act was intended to protect the citizens of Australia from the harmful effects of online betting. Under this law, online gambling operators are prohibited from advertising or offering interactive, real-money wagers. Aussie residents, however, will not be punished if they are found to be using such services, as the law only applies to the companies offering the services.
The IGA is applicable to both Australian and offshore companies, and the maximum daily fine for an individual employee is $220,000. Companies, meanwhile, can be penalized up to $1.1 million per day. While this amount is enough to dissuade some operations from offering their services to Aussie gamblers, others simply carry on with their business and choose to ignore the legislation. Since all offenders are located in countries other than Australia, actually enforcing monetary penalties can often be an exercise in futility.
Luckily, sports betting isn’t affected by the IGA in the same way that Internet casinos are. Any online sportsbook can accept wagers up to the start of an event, as these are not deemed to be “interactive.” Once an event begins, however, the law states that compliant entities must only accept wagers via telephone. Licensed Australian bookmakers certainly adhere to this rule, while offshore firms often disregard it entirely.
Australian gambling policy has historically been created and maintained at the state level, rather than by the Commonwealth. Territorial governments have generally been tasked with creating and enforcing their own gaming laws in exchange for the ability to hold on to more of the profits from those games.
Each of the eight Australian states have their own control board that handles licensure and regulation of games of chance and skill. Here is a list of each:
- Licensing Commission – Northern Territory
- Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing – New South Wales
- Independent Gambling Authority – South Australia
- Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor – Western Australia
- Tasmanian Gaming Commission – Tasmania
- Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation – Queensland
- ACT Gambling and Racing Commission – Australian Capital Territory
- Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation – Victoria
Because of variation in laws between states, it is difficult to make broad statements about the legality of various forms of betting on Australian soil. The most important variations between each territory have to do with the regulation of online gambling – most states won’t license online providers, though the Tasmanian Gaming Commission broke that trend in recent years.
Types of Gambling and Popular Games
Gaming is heavily-regulated in the eight territories that make up the nation of Australia. Each territory has its own governing body that establishes and maintains gaming law within its borders. The result is a slightly complex variety of gambling options that changes a little depending on geography.
- Lotteries – The Australian government has operated lotteries all over Australia ever since 1920s. Not all of them are owned or operated by the government anymore, although the government taxes privately owned and operated lotteries heavily (I doubt that’s a big problem for those private companies considering that lotteries in general have the highest house edge out of all gambling games). Even though operating lottery businesses and participating in lottery games is legal all over Australia, regulations vary depending on the state. The biggest, nationwide lotteries in Australia are Oz Lotto, Powerball and Saturday Lotto.
- Keno – Operated in a similar way as Aussie state lotteries, keno games are regulated by government agencies in some states and private companies in others. Games can be found on big casino floors and in stand-alone keno halls, most of which also have banks of pokies on offer as well.
- Bingo – Besides charity-operated bingo, which all state laws in Australia allow for under certain conditions, territorial governments also host traditional large-venue bingo games in gaming halls. The game also appears in some casinos, in both live and electronic versions.
- Sports Wagering – Betting on sports is explicitly legal in most of Australia, particularly popular in the states of Victoria and New South Wales, where some 3,000 OTB kiosks and rooms allow bets on mutual events as well as professional sports. Many Aussie casinos also have their own sportsbook facilities.
- Pari-mutuel Wagering – Betting on horse races became popular in Australia somewhere in the middle of the 19th century. Nowadays racing is governed by The Australian Racing Board (ARB) whose objectives “are concentrated on developing, encouraging and promoting the sport of thoroughbred racing throughout Australia.” Horse racing is as Australian as ANZAC Day and at least as popular. Many sports betting facilities also allow simulcast wagering on pari-mutuels from around the world. Live racing is also common, concentrated mainly in Victoria and New South Wales.
- Poker Rooms – Poker is as popular a game in Australia as it is in the rest of the world. The nation hosts the Asia Pacific Poker Tour and a popular tournament known as Aussie Millions. Social poker games are found in pubs across the country, and in most cases are perfectly legal. The game is also a popular choice for online Australian bettors – more on that later.
- Casino Gambling – Casinos account for about 17% of total gambling expenditure in Australia. Games available in Aussie casinos include table games such as baccarat, blackjack, craps, poker, roulette and sic-bo, but there are several more. Additionally, you can play keno and TAB games in casinos, and of course pokies (about 6% of all slot machines in Australia are located inside casinos).
- Online Gambling – The legality of online gaming in Australia is a complex issue, mostly because (like is true for the US market) the laws related to Internet betting focus more on illegal game providers than players. Before 2001, Internet betting was unregulated. In 2001, the Interactive Gambling Act passed. This bill had a stated intention of protecting the Australian people from the “harmful effects” of gaming online. Instead of punishing illegal online gamblers, the act attacks the other end, making it illegal to offer or advertise real-money gaming to Aussies. Internet gambling isn’t legal in Australia, but the law provides no punishment for individual players. Therefore, Internet gambling is also a popular choice for Australians looking to place bets.
Australian Bookmakers Association
If you enjoy wagering on horse racing, I recommend dropping by the official site of the Australian Bookmakers Association. This is the representative body for on-course bookmakers throughout the various states and territories of Australia, and they list numerous professionals who provide wagering opportunities to members of the public.
For example, a glance at the New South Wales section shows an alphabetized list of bookmakers throughout the state. Each bookie has their name, phone number, and fax included, and some feature website links. The information also shows what kind of wagers they’re licensed to accept, from harness racing to thoroughbreds.
Australians love their poker machines most of all. Known as slot machines outside Oceania, “pokies” (as they’re affectionately known) are by far the most popular gaming choice for the average citizen. Estimates by a bi-partisan review of the Interactive Gaming Act found that one poker machine exists for every 108 Australians. How much do Australians love their pokies? Fully half of the country’s gaming profits come directly from poker machine play.
The country is home to many large casinos, where traditional table games are about as popular as in any gambling jurisdiction. Roulette is not as popular here as in Europe, and blackjack is not as popular among Aussies as among Americans. Casino-style poker such as 3 Card Poker and Pai Gow Poker. Sic Bo is more popular in Australia than in America or Europe, thanks to the Commonwealth’s proximity to Asia, where the game originated.
Sports wagering and pari-mutuel wagers are a major industry in Australia, akin to what’s found in England and Western Europe. Because OTBs and other pari-mutuel facilities are legal and readily available in most of the country, the revenue generated from this type of gambling is significant. Horse racing is very nearly the national pastime, and wagering on the year’s biggest events is a popular hobby.
Popular Sports Bets
Aussies like to bet on sports almost as much as they love to cheer on their favorite teams. Here are some of the nation’s most popular pastimes:
- Australian Rules Football
- Horse Racing
- Rugby League
- Motor Sports
- Rugby Union
- Dog Racing
- Harness Racing
While these sports draw in the largest amount of spectators and punters, I’ve found that Aussies enjoy risking money on almost any competitive event. This includes sports and games that the average person is likely to participate in, including netball, tenpin bowling, and golf.
Difference Between Bookmakers & Exchanges
When Aussies want to gamble on the outcome of races or other sporting events, they have two options for where to turn: bookmakers and exchanges. With a bookmaker (or sportsbook), you are betting that a specific outcome will occur. This could be as simple as a specific horse winning a race or as complicated as a sports team covering the point spread. This is known as “backing” an outcome, and you are risking your money against the sportsbook.
With a betting exchange, you risk your money against fellow members of the exchange, although the host does collect a commission. In addition to backing the outcome of an event, you can also “lay” a wager against a specific participant. In other words, you can bet on a horse to lose a race or a sports team to collapse in the waning moments of the game.
The biggest difference with betting exchanges is the option to choose existing odds or create your own. If you choose the latter, then other members of the exchange have the option of placing an opposing bet at the odds and monetary value you’ve selected.
Largest Australian Casinos
Australians spend a lot of money on bets, from table games to bets on horses and sporting events. The country is home to mega-casinos and tiny pokies parlours alike. Here’s a look at some of the largest and most important gaming venues in all of Australia.
Crown Casino Entertainment Complex in Melbourne is not just the biggest casino in Australia, it’s currently the largest casino in all of the Southern hemisphere. Victoria, the state in which the Crown is located, is even more gambling-friendly than other Aussie territories, and Melbourne invested heavily in the property in order to drive an economic boom. 500 table games and thousands of pokies are available at this massive casino complex.
The Star Sydney Casino & Hotel is Sydney’s largest gambling facility. Located in the capital of the state, The Star overlooks Darling Harbour, one of the most picturesque and recognizable Australian sights. With 1,500 poker machines and hundreds of table games open on any given day, The Star is the largest Australian casino outside of Melbourne’s Crown.
Casino Canberra is the only such facility currently open in the capital city of Australia. Casino Canberra is worth noting not because of its size, but because of a strange restriction imposed on it due to its presence in Australian Capital Territory – Canberra is not allowed to host any poker machines. This is an important lesson in terms of Australian gaming law. Though pokies are by far the most popular game in all of the Commonwealth, citizens in its capital don’t have easy access to the games.