Government Regulation of Gambling in Australia

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Australia, from the government to the man on the street, accepts that gambling is very much a part of the traditional Australian lifestyle. Virtually every form of gambling is legal in the country, and the government’s primary involvement is generally to keep people safe, whether that means helping them to avoid unsavoury operations or preventing them from becoming addicted. Every aspect of gambling in the country is subject to some form of rules.

Housie, or bingo, only recently took off as a mass market form of gambling having traditionally been played as part of fundraising efforts at charity events. It is certainly one of the tamer forms of gambling that can be encountered, particularly with it being played for relatively small stakes. On that basis, governmental involvement is extremely limited, and playing Housie is legal across Australia.

Horse racing is extremely popular in the country and, as one of the oldest gambling traditions in Australia, has undergone constant supervision with rules constantly evolving to keep up with the demands of both the sport itself and the gamblers that bet on it. Horse backers in the country will be highly familiar with the TABs or Totalisator Agency Boards which were originally fully government owned, although the majority have been gradually privatised. In terms of regulation, the three largest bodies are the Racing Club of Australian Capital Territory, the Canberra Greyhound Racing Club and the Canberra Harness Racing Club, each of whom have localised regulatory powers over the sport. Many more small organisations perform similar roles across the country, with hundreds of horse and dog racing tracks to be found around Australia.

Online gambling itself is also highly regulated. In fact, in the opinion of many Australian gamblers, the regulation is actually too stringent. The key aspect of regulation in the country was the Interactive Gambling Act, passed in 2001. Generally speaking, it targeted online gambling service providers rather than their customers and had the effect of making the operation of an online gaming facility illegal, while making the act of online gaming acceptable. The act also extended to banning advertisements for online poker and casino games. The act dealt most severely with these forms of gambling, although both sports betting and lotteries have received less regulation as the government simply considers them to be an extension of land based services.

In terms of sports betting and lotteries in general, both are widely practiced in Australia, both online and offline. There are numerous famous bookmakers in the country and lotteries were deemed legal once and for all when, in 1964, the Australian government published the Lotteries Act. The Act covers traditional lottery formats and scratch cards, and numerous variations can be found around the country, from casinos to supermarkets.

Australia is certainly something of a casino hotbed, and their activities are monitored and regulated directly by the government and the Gaming Commission. The most recent legislation governing their operation was implemented in 2006 and took the form of the Casino Control Act. Australia has always been known for promoting fairness to and the safety of players and this took it one step further. All regulated casinos are free to offer any of the most popular table, card and pokie games on the premises, including poker, blackjack and roulette. Pokies themselves can be found not only in casinos, but also pubs and clubs. The Australian government has traditionally been kind in their regulation, imposing few rules. This is no doubt in no small part due to the fact that around one fifth of government gambling revenues come either directly or indirectly from taxes and levies on these very pokies.

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