Gambling has been a major public concern in Australia, and unlike most countries in the world, Australia has a well-structured legal framework when it comes to regulating gambling.
While gambling policy in Australia has usually been a State-regulated affair, adoption of various forms of new communications technology by the gambling industry at large has urged the Federal government to take an interest in the matter as online gambling might have serious ramifications for community welfare; revenue collection and functioning of regulatory mechanisms.
As legal scholars would attest, one of the most important federal legislation that regulates online gambling operations in Australia is the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001. It was officially introduced as Interactive Gambling Bill in the Australian Commonwealth Parliament in April 2001 and received assent on July 11, 2001, after being passed by the Australian Commonwealth Parliament in June 2001.
Moreover, this law prohibits unlicensed online gambling and is particularly oriented towards consumer protection. It is enforced by Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) – the central body responsible for monitoring media and communications throughout Australia. In short, then, gambling activities in Australia are regulated on both the State level and Federal level.
This article focuses on unpacking the legal frameworks that govern online casinos and their modes of operation in Australia.
So keep your calm, don’t panic, and read this article to learn more!
Interactive Gambling Act, 2001
As mentioned earlier, the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001 is central to understanding the online gambling landscape in Australia. The Act received assent in July 2001 and consecutively:
- It prohibits the providing of interactive gambling services to customers living in Australia.
- It prohibits the providing of Australian-based interactive gambling services to customers in certain designated countries.
- Allows the establishment of a complaint-based system to deal with Internet gambling services where the relevant Internet gambling content is available for access by customers in Australia.
- Prohibits the advertisement of interactive gambling services.
Thus, as legal scholars Julian Hoskins and Anne Tucker put it, according to this legal framework, the following activities are illegal in the Australian Commonwealth:
- Use of online casinos, slot machines, and poker.
- Use of Online Wagering services that promulgate ‘in-play betting options on live sports events.
- Use of Online Wagering services provided without an Australian State-regulated license.
Providing and Participating in Online Instant lotteries.
- Facilitating the provision of credit by certain wagering service operators to their customers.
The Interactive Gambling Amendment Act 2017
As mentioned earlier, there are several State-governed licensing mechanisms that play a role in regulating gambling activities. So please remember to check that information because local operators have to hold relevant licenses from State regulatory authorities to offer gambling products. In 2017, keeping these practices in mind, The Interactive Gambling Act was amended and had the following prohibitory reforms:
- “a prohibited interactive gambling service must not be provided to customers in Australia;”
- “unlicensed regulated interactive gambling services must not be provided to customers in Australia;”
- “An Australian-based prohibited interactive gambling service must not be provided to customers in designated countries;”
- “Prohibited interactive gambling services must not be advertised;”
- “Unlicensed regulated interactive gambling services must not be advertised.”
These amended prohibitions place a special emphasis on licensing – so always check whether the gambling product under consideration has relevant licenses or not! Even if you only want to play free online pokies, the relevant license is important for any gambling site. Moreover, Overseas-based operators who do not possess relevant State or Territory License will be deemed unlawful operators by the Interactive Gambling Act. Their sites may be consequently blocked by ACMA, and such parties might have to pay heavy penalties.
Australian Communications and Media Authorities ( ACMA )
The ACMA is concerned with regulations of media and communications content and has jurisdiction all over Australia. Moreover, this body is also concerned with monitoring and enforcing the regulation of online gambling and the use of the telephone for wagering or gambling services. As the amended Interactive Gambling Act (IGA) of 2017 attests:
- “The ACMA may on its own initiative, or in response to a complaint, investigate whether a person has contravened a provision of this Act that imposes any of those prohibitions.”
- “The ACMA has a reserve power to make an industry-standard if there is no industry code or if an industry code is deficient.”
- “The ACMA must notify prohibited internet gambling content to internet service providers so that the providers can deal with the content in accordance with procedures specified in an industry code or industry standard.”
A major focus of the amended Interactive Gambling Act reforms was oriented towards combating gambling organizations and service providers from outside Australia. In addition to these dictates, the ACMA has also been endowed with the power of instigating civil proceedings and notify relevant border protection agencies such as the Australian Border Forces when they trace illegal offshore operators and also coordinate with foreign regulators to prosecute these alleged offenders.
Moreover, since these reforms, the ACMA has taken certain measures that include maintaining a register of Australian-licensed interactive wagering service services. They have also set up an Interactive Gambling Industry Code that has directives about how internet service providers should deal with illegal gambling content. They are bound to block access to websites designated as illegal by ACMA but must make content filters accessible to customers.
Moreover, as part of its efforts to protect consumers, ACMA prohibits gambling operators from offering lines of credit to customers who live in Australia or helps them connect with third-party credit sources such as payday lenders. They have a well-structured mechanism for registering consumer complaints, so please reach in case you need help!
As a result of these reforms, the amount of money people lost on online gambling activities that are based outside Australia has substantially reduced. Moreover, as iGaming Business reports, the ACMA has managed to block 238 illegal gambling sites since November 2019, with 130 illegal gambling services withdrawing from Australia.
Remember that legality is an important issue to navigate as you consider gambling endeavors. These laws might be dense, complex, and confusing, but they are meant to protect you from grave financial losses! So please be a responsible gambler who knows where to find relevant information.
If you want to have an up-to-date detailed list of Australian- licensed gambling services, do check out the official ACMA website where they publish this list. They keep updating important information, are receptive to consumer complaints, and rule out sites that breach industry codes. You definitely want to be a responsible gambler, pal!