Gambling is a big deal in Australia and it has been part of the tradition of the country since the first European settlers landed here. Modern day Australians gamble more than anyone else in any other country. Spending close to $1,500 per person per year, we lose three times more money gambling than countries such as Greece and Spain, who are also in the top ten biggest gambling countries.
Legality of Online Gambling in Australia
Gambling was unrestricted for many years in Australia, but things were shaken up a little in 2001. This was the year that the Interactive Gambling Act was passed, which forbade Australian operators from advertising gambling services in the country, whilst also stopping Australian online gambling companies from operating within their own country. It may be hard to get your head around the fact that those seemingly strict restrictions have been in place for close to 15 years, yet gambling has grown in Australia at a faster rate than in any other country.
This is because, as with all laws, there are many loop holes to the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001. The main loop hole is that whilst Australian operators are banned from offering online gambling services in the country, there are allowed to operate and to offer their services to players in other countries, whilst Australians are also allowed to use online gambling sites that are based in other countries.
This could possibly be one of the most pointless of all pointless gambling laws, as it does nothing to stop or even limit gambling in Australia and if anything it merely limits the chances of home grown sites prospering in the country. The law does stipulate that all gambling operators are not allowed to advertise their services, which is a little less pointless. This is a way of protecting the vulnerable and the young. It can’t be argued that advertising is effective and more so in the young, and as gambling companies tend to target the youth, the Australian government clearly saw this law as a way of protecting them.
Of course, that didn’t stop Australians from gambling more than residents of any other country, but what’s to say that without this law, Australians would lose a lot more than $1,300 or so every year?
The reason Australians gamble so much in the first place has nothing to do with advertising and everything to do with culture. Gambling is inherent, as is going down the pub for a few drinks with friends. It is a right of passage almost, and because all pubs contain pokies, it is no wonder why so many youngsters in this country gamble. Of course, the laws are slightly more restrictive in Western Australia, where there are no pokies in such establishments, but where casino gambling is still legalized (after all, who could say no to all that tax revenue and tourism?)
As reported by Problem Gambling, the official gambling addiction organization in the country, Australians spend more than $12 billion a year on pokies, and there are more of these machines located in Australia than in any other country. This causes many issues as these machines create more gambling addictions than any other form of gambling. When you add in the fact that Aussies love gambling so much and that it is so widely available, you have the ingredients for a perfect storm.
As far as Problem Gambling is concerned, this storm is already in progress, as they have reported that as many as half a million gamblers in this country are at risk for problem gambling. As they have also found that 1 problem gambler can negatively effect the lives of 10 people (on average) around them, this could be a serious issue for the country, and it is no doubt the main reason that the law discussed above was put into place. However, there are no suggestions that further restrictions are going to be placed on the industry.
There are many reasons for this, the least of which is that gambling can be a fun and harmless pastime for many, and those many shouldn’t need to suffer because of the few. The main reason, however, is that gambling generates a lot of money for the government through tax. Of course, they don’t get any tax revenue from online gambling sites, so there is a possibility that they will further limit the availability of these sites, but there is a bigger possibility that they all try and implement a scheme that taxes online gambling in Australia, much like the one recently implemented in the United Kingdom.
Either way, as things stand gambling is legal and widely available in Australia, so we need to take advantage of that whilst we can. Nothing is guaranteed in this industry and promising tax revenue doesn’t mean anything if the next talking head in the political office thinks he or she can get extra votes by banning gambling. Vote with your bank balance and gamble while you can.