With Melbourne as its capital, the state of Victoria attracts a large number of tourists every year, on top of the 6 million or so people that call this region home. This is the second largest state in the country, and one with many casinos and many gamblers, but is gambling in all of its forms really as legal and widely available as it appears to be in Victoria?
In many Australian states there are half a dozen or more laws concerning gambling in all of its forms. In Western Australia, for instance, there are 11 different laws, all regulating gambling in the region, whilst Queensland also has 11 and New South Wales has 14. In Victoria, however, there are only three and the main one that gamblers in this state need to be concerned about is the Gambling Regulation Act of 2003.
Gambling Regulation Act of 2003
So what is this law and what is its purpose? According to the authorities who created it, the Gambling Regulation Act of 2003 was established to “minimise harm caused by problem gambling” in the region, which is an understandable objective when you consider that up to half a million Australians are at risk of problem gambling and that this country has a higher proportion of gambling addicts than any other. The act was also created to help people “gamble without harming themselves or others”.
The law was also created with the intent of stopping minors from gambling, stopping organised crime profiting from this industry and generally ensuring that everything concerning gambling in this region was fair and honest, whilst promoting tourism.
Gambling is mostly legal in Victoria, but there are some restrictions. For instance, poker games are perfectly legal, even those where stakes or “buy-ins” are paid. However, these are no longer legal if someone is taking a share of those stakes, but it’s fine if those stakes are pooled together and given to the winner or winners. Of course, this does not apply to licensed and regulated casinos.
When it comes to pokies, there is a cap on the amount allowed in the state. This cap is 30,000, and at last count the actual amount was a couple thousand shy of this. For a premises to operate one or more of these machines they need a license, and all licenses last for 10 years, after which they need to reapply. Pokies can be found everywhere from pubs and clubs, to shopping centres. The vast majority of these are located in the capital city Melbourne, where you will find a total of around 19,000 pokies.
Lotteries are also legal and widely available in Victoria and these, just like the pokies, are regulated by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation, who also handout alcohol licenses.
There is only one casino in Victoria, which is the Crown Casino in Melbourne. This was established in 1994 by a brand that operates other gambling enterprises in Australia. This colossal casino has a large entertainment complex, restaurants and a shopping area — as well as the gambling and gaming floors — which makes it a hit with locals and with tourists. There are no restrictions on further casinos being opened in the region, although any potential developers would need to consult with the local authorities and with the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation before they could establish such a venue.
In all regions of Australia there are strict rules concerning online gambling. Whilst pokies, race books and casinos operate legally in most states, the same can’t be said for online gambling sites of the same nature. The Australian authorities have tried their best to restrict these sites, and they have stopped any such businesses from being created in Australia. However, they are unable to stop Australian players from playing on overseas sites, as these are abiding by the laws of the country in which the online casino or sportsbook operates.
Of course, unlike the United States, where gambling is tightly restricted and any sites appealing “legally” to US players do so with limited credibility, in Australia it seems to be more about tax than anything else. The Australian authorities get a lot of tax income from legal casinos and especially from pokies. Even in the face of all the problem gambling epidemic, which hurts the finances of an individual as well as the region in which they live, the government is able to secure a profit. However, with online gambling there is not such income, yet the issues associated with problem gambling are still there. So, in the eyes of the Australian government, it’s a lose-lose situation, and they are as happy with that as you would expect them to be.
Perhaps the answer then is to legalise online gambling from within the country, removing all restrictions placed upon it. But even then the overseas sites would still dominate and the government would lose out. What this means for the future of gambling in Victoria and Australia on the whole is anyone’s guess, but as things stand online gambling and most forms of offline gambling are rife, and that’s all that matters.