Regulation and licensing of online casinos

It is estimated that 80% of Australian adults gamble at least once per year.  It is speculated that Australians gamble more per capita than any other nationality.

Australian gambling law as it relates to online gambling goes back to the Interactive Gambling Act (IGA) of 2001 which made it illegal for any online site to provide gambling opportunities to Australians.  At the time, it was alleged that the main purpose of the law was to protect land-based casinos in Australia which were and are legal.

As happens with much legislation, the meaning of the key terms in the IGA is vague.  Online sites are not fully aware if there is anything they can do to make their online casino legal in the eyes of Australian law.

So all online casinos that wish to attract Australian gamers are registered, regulated, and certified offshore, in places like the Isle of Man and Malta.

What the online gambling law means for Australians

The IGA targeted purveyors of online gambling, not the gamblers themselves.  So by incorporating offshore, an ostensibly illegal gambling enterprise becomes a legal online casino in the eyes of the law!  The IGA specifically prohibited gambling operators from “offering real money gambling” or advertising same.  So, if an offshore site does not technically offer gambling but rather expedites an Australian’s desire to gamble, is the casino breaking Australian law?  The answer seems murky at best.  Thus, for all practical purposes, it is not illegal for Aussies to gamble online.

Land-based gambling is fully regulated by law.  You can play pokies, poker, table games, and place sports bets at legally certified land-based venues.  Online casino law, however, is in a state of disarray.  Even when online casino laws are clear, enforcement is non-existent.  Each state or territory has its own gambling regulatory agency and the central government amends or effects law where the local authority has left an area unclear.

It turned out that the internet was too hard for any government to control and online casinos simply based themselves offshore and ignored Aussie law.  The Australian government decided in 2012 to reopen the question of the legality of online gambling for Australians.  Now it was alleged that the government’s true interest in online gambling was to find a way to tax winnings and profits.

There are some areas where the law is explicitly clear:

  • Gambling is legal only to people over 18 years of age.
  • Sports betting and lotteries are legal.
  • Betting on sports events after they have begun is illegal according to the IGA.
  • Winnings are not taxed as income in Australia.
  • Legal gambling sites pay taxes on their profits.
  • Sports betting and lotteries are legal online if they are an adjunct of a regulated and licensed land-based enterprise.

What you need to know before you start playing

The biggest potential danger to online gamblers from Australia is that since the sites are not regulated by any Australian authority, gamblers who feel they have been mistreated or cheated by the casino have no legal recourse within Australia. This points to the most important aspect of online gambling for Australians (everyone actually): make sure that the online casino you choose is absolutely reputable, safe, certified, regularly audited for fairness and honesty.

If all those criteria are met it is left up to you to: Have a great time! We only recommend online casinos that are regulated, safe and secure and legal for players in Australia. These are some of our top online casinos that you can gamble at safely.

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