In Australia, no legislation prohibits individuals gambling online – whether through a website or app. However, the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (Cth) (the Act) regulates the provision of interactive gambling services to customers in Australia. Below, we set out what are the regulations, who they apply to, and consequences for non-compliance.
What Regulations Apply to Providers?
The vast majority of gambling/betting/wagering laws, regulations and regulatory authorities exist at the state and territory level. That’s where you will find rules on the maximum number of pokies per square metre in a hotel or the level of gambling tax or how late casinos can open.
On the other hand, the Commonwealth primarily regulates online betting. Under the Act, a person commits an offence if they intentionally provide an interactive gambling service, and the service has an Australian-customer link (subject to the exceptions set out below). Fines can run into the tens of thousands of dollars per day the service is available.
What is an Interactive Gambling Service?
An interactive gambling service is a gambling service where the service is:
- Provided in the course of carrying on a business; and
- Provided to customers using an internet carriage service (or similar services).
Wagering services are exempt from the Act’s operation (i.e. sporting and other events deemed to involve skill rather than chance). For example, wagering online on a horse race (although this would be subject to obtaining the appropriate licence from each state and/or territory where people can access the site). It would be illegal however to offer online gambling on the result of a coin toss as this would be considered a matter of chance, not skill. Most casino style games (roulette, blackjack, pokie machines) with random outcomes could also not use this exemption.
Other exemptions to the Act include:
- Television games exemption (for example, if you pay to enter a weekly draw to win a prize related to a TV programme); and
- Lotteries that are not frequent or repetitive.
One significant restriction on online sports betting is that no betting is permitted once the sporting event has commenced. If you want to offer bets on sports events ‘in-play’, you cannot do so legally online to Australians. You would need to use an offline method and comply with the relevant state or territory based rules, as well as obtain a licence. The Australian Government commissioned a review of the Act last year, following which it has strengthened its ban on in-play betting.
Some Additional Considerations
If you are providing your online betting service from within Australia, you will need to comply with the provisions of the Act – but what if you are outside of Australia? Australian regulators believe that the Act covers providers irrespective of location, but some in major offshore gambling jurisdictions think their members fall outside the operation of Australian law.
Some providers have been creative in their approach, producing mobile applications that activate the smartphone’s microphone when a user places a bet. This makes the activity a telephone bet and not an internet based one, and so outside the Act’s scope altogether. The Government’s review, however, announced it would close this loophole and legislate to ban ‘click-to-call’ apps.
It is also an offence to advertise interactive gambling both on and offline.
Australian businesses can offer online gambling to people abroad provided that the country is not on the designated list. It’s important to note, however, the following caveats:
- You will need to take steps to ensure that the service you provide is not available in Australia; and
- You will need to check that you are not at risk of breaking any laws in any of the countries where you are in fact providing your gambling service.
Gambling is heavily regulated in Australia. Although the Act exempts certain types of interactive gambling services, providers must then navigate the relevant state and territory laws and regulations. If you have any questions on how to play by the rules, get in touch on 1300 544 755.