Gambling is legal across Australia, including both physical gaming environments (like casinos and betting shops) and gambling online. This has always been the case, and will remain the case indefinitely.
While players are free to choose how they gamble and the sites they use, there is legislation on the statute books that deals specifically with gambling operators. The effect for players is minimal, besides notionally constraining the types of gambling products they have access to. All of the legal burden is on the shoulders of website operators located in each state or territory, and even still, many international operators choose not to comply.
That means you’re free to gamble in any way you choose nationwide, with absolutely no worries about running foul of the law.
Gambling Laws in New South Wales
Much has been made of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001, which came into force under the Howard government back in 2001. Many players across New South Wales and nationwide thought this could restrict their traditional freedom to gamble. While this hasn’t quite been the effect of the law, it is still important to understand how this works for gambling operators – if only to put your mind at ease.
The Act made it illegal for casino operators to offer or advertise real-money interactive gambling services to Australian citizens, with fines topping AU$1.1m a day for any company found in breach. While this has long been outlawed, Australian citizens are still free to gamble with any site willing to accept their bets, and many internationally-based companies still operate freely in Australia in spite of these laws.
It is important to remember that no player can be restricted or punished for gambling online – it’s your free choice to do so, in whichever way you like, with any casino, poker room or sports betting site you fancy.
Sports betting is completely unaffected by the Act, other than in-play betting features which are technically not permitted for Australian gamblers. In practice, Aussies are totally free to bet on a whole range of sports with their chosen bookmaker, provided they are betting before the event gets underway – this isn’t deemed ‘interactive’, so it’s totally legal and acceptable for any Australian operator to offer online and mobile sports betting services.
Australian bookies are prevented from offering in-play or live odds as an online service, which have been strictly outlawed by the Act. Bookies can offer this service via phone betting or via retail services such as TABs. The Australian Government has promised to legislate against ‘Click To Call’ betting, which several bookmakers had promoted as an alternative. As a result, most providers have withdrawn this service. For players looking to get the live betting experience, it’s still possible to find international sportsbooks happy to accept Australian punters for in-play and live betting, so the restriction is one that doesn’t really exist in practice for most people.
Casino gambling is more difficult for operators, specifically those based within Australia. These companies are allowed to set up and operate in Australia, but the law requires them to avoid marketing any interactive games to Australian customers. This means you might find that Australian betting sites avoid offering traditional casino games like roulette and blackjack online.
For websites located elsewhere in the world, it is still technically illegal to offer interactive casino gambling to Australians, but plenty do so with no threat of incurring the fines built in to the Act, and as a player this isn’t your concern anyway.
These companies are beyond the reach of Australian authorities in any event, so are unlikely to run into regulatory difficulties. For ordinary players, this should never be a problem – you’re still as free to gamble through an online casino as you would be a sportsbook, so you can get playing without a second’s hesitation.
Pokies or slots are one of the most popular areas of online gambling, entirely open to Australian players online as with players from most other countries around the world. Again, Australian-based operators may face some restrictions in the types of gambling products they can offer, but in practice players can get access to all of their preferred slots games online and on mobile from their casinos of choice without difficulty.
This means Australian players can take part in fixed-odds pokies, including those with progressive jackpots, to earn massive, life-changing wins – all above board and totally within the parameters of the law.
No Australian gambling operator is permitted to offer poker online. But that doesn’t stop the large international poker sites, which reach out to Australian players with tailored bonuses and welcome packages to actively encourage our citizens to use their sites. From your perspective, you can get access to the same levels of welcome bonuses, rakeback and other incentives as players in the UK, Europe or Asia, with no concerns about legality.
Even if the poker sites themselves are technically prohibited from offering their services to Australians, you are completely free to sign up and play through their platforms, online or on your mobile, to get your poker fix.
The Verdict – It’s All Legal
In New South Wales, ultimate responsibility for gambling operators falls to the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing, with the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 providing the overarching national framework. This body was set up to regulate gambling operators established in the N.S.W region, and focuses on protecting players’ interests, rather than prohibiting their play.
The bottom line for players in New South Wales is this – if you find a casino or betting site that accepts Australian players, you’re good to go. Some are based within Australian borders, which will limit the services they can legally provide to you. Others based internationally are in reality free to offer you any service they like, and so long as you’re comfortable with your casino or sportsbook, you are legally free to bet with them without any hesitation.