When it comes to online gambling laws, there are often more questions than there are answers. To help ease your concerns, we aim to answer some of those questions in this article.
Is Online Gambling Legal?
In Australia, online gambling is governed by something known as the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001, which covers all states and regions. This act replaced local laws, which defined the legal status of both offline and online gambling in certain states and regions.
This act makes it illegal for Australian companies to offer online (interactive) gambling to Australian players. They can offer those services to players from other countries though, and players can also play on foreign casinos.
Are All Forms of Gambling Legal?
The simple answer is yes, but it’s not quite as simple as that. When it comes to online gambling, it is still a pretty resounding yes, but when it comes to offline gambling some states are more restrictive than others:
New South Wales: Probably the most relaxed state in Australia where gambling is concerned, NSW is particularly big on pokies. In fact, it has the second most pokies of any state in the world, with only Nevada ahead of it.
Western Australia: There are very few legal pokies in this state. In fact, the only legal pokies are in the city of Perth, and in the Crown Perth casino in particular. This is the most restricted state where gambling is concerned.
Queensland: This state is somewhere in between two above, with some tighter restrictions than NSW, but not quite as many as Western Australia.
What Is Not Legal?
It is not legal for Aussie sites to appeal to Aussie players, as we mentioned above, but it is also not legal for them to advertise to Australian players. Besides that though, everything else is pretty much legal where online gambling is concerned. That applies to lotteries, sports betting, casino gambling and all other forms of gambling.
Of course, as described above, offline gambling is a different matter altogether, and in some states everything from poker to pokies is illegal outside of the biggest casinos, although laws on lotteries and bingo games tend to be more relaxed.
What Legislation Governs These States?
The following organisations control what is legal and what is not in all Australian states. These work according to a number of codes and regulations.
- New South Wales: The New South Wales Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing
- Capital Territory: ACT Gambling and Racing Commission (often known simply as «ACT»)
- Northern Territory: The Licensing Commission of the Northern Territories (or simply the «Licensing Commission»)
- Queensland: Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation
- Victoria: The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation
- Western Australia: Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor
- Tasmania: The Tasmanian Gaming Commission (the «GC»)
- South Australia: Independent Gambling Authority (often referred to as the «IGA»)
Are My Earnings Taxable?
This is a contentious issue, and is not a very clear one. In most cases, your winnings are not taxable. If you gamble professionally, then it’s a different matter, but it’s not easy to determine just when someone is an amateur and when they are a professional, not when it comes to gambling.
After all, what defines a professional? Is it someone who plays these games for many hours a day and receives all of his income from them? If so, what about the unemployed man who gambles 5 cents a hand and plays from morning until night because he has nothing better to do? And if his earnings are not taxable, then why is his situation different from someone who does the same, but with more money and more success?
The government has had issues with this for a number of years now, most commonly with poker players. But to put it simply, if you are gambling as a hobby and are sure that you can prove that (you will be given a chance to state your case) then you will not be taxed.
What Happens If I Break the Law?
It is very hard to break the law as a player, because there is very little that you can actually do wrong. However, if you were to play on a site that was breaking the law, then it is very unlikely that anything would happen to you. The gambling company, on the other hand, would face severe penalties for letting you play there.
As we have mentioned already, it is illegal for Australian gambling sites to advertise to Australian players, but there is no jail term or risk of closure for breaking this law. Instead, they will be fined. This may sound like they are getting off easy, but these fines are very severe and they are charged daily. They can pretty much bankrupt an online casino within a week, so they are not to be taken lightly.