The gambling laws in Australia are diverse, differing from region to region. This can make them hard to pin down, because whilst gambling in most of its forms is legal in many cities and states across the country, it is tightly restricted in others. However, even in those regions there are loop holes, grey areas that can and are exploited on a regular basis.
One of the regions where gambling is tightly restricted is Western Australia, but as mentioned above, these laws are not as cut and dry as you would expect.
There are many laws governing gambling in Western Australia, including the Betting Control Act of 1954, the Gaming and Wagering Commission Act of 1987 and the Race Restriction Act of 2003. These concern gambling in most of its forms in Western Australia, but when combined, what do these laws mean for gamblers in the region?
Western Australia is one of the few regions where you will struggle to find pokies. There are tightly regulated here, much more so than they are in other regions. That’s why you will struggle to find pokies in clubs, hotels and restaurants, which is simply not the case elsewhere. As an example, you can’t go anywhere in New South Wales without bumping into a pokie or two.
Gambling has been restricted here for a long time, but it was only in the mid-70s when the local authorities decided to regulate it. Prior to that, illegal gambling dens fed a small fortune into organised crime in the region, which the government decided to put a stop to. They did this by making gambling a legal activity, as long as the provider had the correct license. This is what the Crown Casino was granted when they opened their casino in 1985 in the city of Perth, giving some much needed legal gambling to the citizens of Western Australia. In fact it was the Western Australian Government, along with businessman Dallas Dempster (a man who made his name in property) who proposed the casino in the first place. They knew that not only would it attract tourism and generate tax income, but it would also be the final nail in the coffin of the illegal gambling rackets.
Despite a 30 year wait, no other casino have been built in this region. There are no laws that say that the Crown Casino can be the only one, and there is plenty of opportunity for others to open casinos in Western Australia, so why they have yet to do so is a mystery, although it might have something to do with the fact that regions like New South Wales, with greater populations, more tourists and a closer proximity to bigger cities, are much more viable alternatives.
Racebooks also exist inside Western Australia, as do legal lotteries, but in a further effort to complicate matters, offline sportsbooks are illegal here, whilst online sportsbooks are not.
So what does this mean for online gambling in Western Australia? Well, believe it or not, this is also tightly restricted. This is not restricted to Western Australia though as the same applies throughout Australia, even in New South Wales, where it seems the gambling laws are at their most relaxed. The law states that online gambling sites are not allowed to operate with complete freedom within Australia, banning them from advertising to their own countrymen and from running interactive services.
Those laws do not apply to gambling sites based outside of Australia. In this case those sites merely have to abide by the laws of the country in which they reside. This is why gambling sites such as Bet365 and BetFair, as well as online casinos such as Spin Palace, are able to operate legally within Australia. In fact, a large percentage of their customer base is made up of Australian players.
Unfortunately for gamblers in Western Australia, it looks like things are only going to get worse, with tighter and even less comprehensible restrictions place on all forms of gambling. For many years it seemed likely that another casino would spring-up inside the region and that more would follow from then on, but as more time passed without this happening, and as tighter restrictions were placed on pokies and other forms of gambling, it looked like things would go in the other direction.
Problem gambling is a huge issue in Australia and one that the governments are looking to stomp out. Due to the fact that Western Australia has the tightest restrictions on gambling as things stand, it may be that the government uses this region as a springboard, testing even tighter restrictions on gambling before rolling these out across the country.
Of course, even if that does happen, it seems unlikely that they will be able to impose heavy sanctions on online gambling, because with so many sites based overseas and flying under the radar of the authorities, this is an industry that just can’t be stopped.