Australia is known as lawful and obedient nation, where the majority of its citizens are law-abiding. In other words, most Australians follow the country’s rules and regulations without question – except, it seems, when it comes to online casinos.
Despite Australia’s law-abiding culture, droves of online casino fans seem to be brazenly ‘thumbing their noses’ at the government by playing at banned ‘offshore-owned and operated’ online casinos, and other online real money gambling sites.
So why are Australians ignoring the ban on online casinos is the million dollar question, and one we aim to answer in this piece.
Australian online casino fans are on the rise
It’s no secret that the ever-increasing number of Aussie gambling fans that visit online casinos is a ‘thorn in the side’ of the Australian government, and one it is undoubtedly eager to remedy as fast and painlessly as possible.
But to understand the gravity of Australia’s online gambling ‘situation,’ you need to be aware that the country has a long and rich gambling heritage, and that its citizens aren’t used to being told where they can and can’t gamble.
Anyone familiar with Australia will tell you how ‘gambling crazy’ it is. In fact, there are estimates that as many as 80% of adults Down Under enjoy some form of gambling in the form of pokies / EGMs (slots), lotteries, land casinos, scratch cards, sports betting and online casinos.
Online gambling has been popular in Down Under since the mid-1990s
Online casino games have been popular Down Under ever since the very first gambling sites were launched in the mid-1990s.
From then until now thousands of Aussies have sought the privacy, 24/7 convenience and huge game selections of online casinos with hundreds of fun + real money pokies, table games and card games. (Go here if you’re a noob to see for yourself what the best Australian online casinos have to offer).
That said, while Aussie fans have embraced online casinos, the Australian government – like many of its contemporaries – has long-wrestled with online gambling legalisation and regulation.
But unlike many of its contemporaries, it has failed to recognise the benefits of online gambling regulation and the subsequent taxation of gaming revenues.
Australia’s IGA Amendment Bill of 2016 threw the industry into turmoil
This came to a head with the introduction of the Interactive Gambling Act Amendment Bill of 2016 (IGAAB), which threw the industry into turmoil by essentially criminalizing it as opposed to legalising and regulating it.
The IGAAB is designed to amend the Interactive Gambling Act (IGA) 2001, the legislation that currently governs online gambling in Australia.
It seeks to one, refine the provisions in the IGA regarding illegal offshore gambling and two, boost dramatically the scope and power of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), the country’s Federal regulator.
The IGAAB defined prohibited interactive gambling services
With regards to the former, the Amendment Bill makes a distinction between ‘regulated interactive gambling services’ and ‘prohibited interactive gambling services’ – which was not made in the IGA.
This means offshore gambling sites may no longer service players in Australia and if found doing so are liable for criminal and civil prosecution.
In other words, the Amendment Bill draws a line in the sand with offshore gaming operators. The result is that in the last year many have closed their virtual doors to Australian players. They are understandably unprepared to risk receiving fines of up to $6.75 million for every day they contravene the IGAAB.
Although Australian players cannot be prosecuted for gambling online at offshore casino sites unlicensed in Australia, those operators can.
The ACMA range and powers have been tremendously boosted
With the latter, the ACMA will be granted the power to issue formal warnings, impose civil penalties, issue infringement notices and seek injunctions. Their successes have been widely reported.
It will also start a ‘register’ of legalised (legitimate) online gambling services in Australia. Any site not listed will be classified as a ‘prohibited interactive gambling service.’
Under the IGAAB, the ACMA can also share information about prohibited operators and their executive with Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection which can restrict the movement of said executives in and out of Australia.
Which brings us back to the folks stuck between the Aussie government and offshore online casinos – Australia’s online gamblers. And the question we’re trying to answer.
Aussie online gamblers will not be dictated to
Here it is. Most Australians will agree that provided they’re over the country’s legal gambling age of 18, they should be able to gamble how, when and wherever they choose.
If that includes at some of the best online casinos – despite being unlicensed in Australia – then so be it. In other words, they refuse to be dictated to, and why not?