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Guide to Online Casinos & Gambling in Australia 2018

Australia Online Casinos

Australians' love of gambling is as strong as their love of cricket, rugby and the beach. But while the country boasts some of the highest distributions of poker machines ("pokies") anywhere, the online casino picture is a lot different.

While there is some legal online gambling for Australians in 2018, online casinos Australia-based players can enjoy are few and far between. Up until recently, Aussies were free to enjoy slots/pokies, roulette, and blackjack on their desktop machines and mobiles. But a change in the law has seen many large operators leave the country altogether.

Let's have a closer look at how one of the keenest gambling nations was left with completely prohibited online casinos. We'll also explore the options for Australian gamblers across the country in 2018.

Gambling Laws in Australia 2018

In 2001, the Interactive Gambling Act moved to prohibit the explicit advertising of offshore betting sites. However, many large overseas sportsbooks have found a way in via licenses from the Norfolk Islands or Northern Territory (NT).

Since 2001, powerful land-based operators have continued to protest at the abundance of overseas sites offering real-cash gaming. And in 2016, the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill was brought before the Parliament of Australia. It became the Interactive Gambling Amendment Act a year later.

In a sweeping move, the Aussie government outlawed all unlicensed online casinos, sportsbooks, and poker sites Down Under. If you love pokies or roulette at online casinos, Australia citizens suddenly found themselves shut out permanently.

Looking to the UK, where a new ruling body was set up to oversee and regulate gambling services online, the Aussie government have done something similar. The ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority) has been given powers to issue penalties to operators stepping out of line.

The Australian Government has now outlawed online casinos and online poker sites in the country. This means that operators are not licensed, nor are they legally entitled to offer these gambling services to Australian residents. Any sites that still accept Australian players are in direct contravention of government laws. Players' funds may not be safe with these operators as they have no means of retrieving their funds in the case of any legal disputes.

Despite the blanket ban on casinos, online bingo, and poker, licensed online sportsbooks continue to operate safely Down Under. It's also legal to play poker in casinos and place legal sports bets at Tote-style outlets (TAB) across the country. Sports betting comes a close second in popularity to pokies for Aussie gamblers.

In general, Australian gambling laws are set on a territory by territory basis. Poker machine limits and numbers may vary between Victoria and New South Wales, for example.

State Gambling Commissions

NT

Northern Territory government: https://nt.gov.au/industry/gambling/online-gaming-licence/how-a-licence-is-granted.

Victoria

Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation: https://www.vcglr.vic.gov.au/.

New South Wales

Liquor & Gaming NSW: https://www.liquorandgaming.nsw.gov.au/.

Western Australia

Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor: http://www.rgl.wa.gov.au/.

Queensland

Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation: https://www.business.qld.gov.au/industries/hospitality-tourism-sport/liquor-gaming/gaming.

ACT

Gambling and Racing Commission: https://www.gamblingandracing.act.gov.au/.

Tasmania

Tasmanian Liquor and Gaming Commission: http://www.treasury.tas.gov.au/liquor-and-gaming.

Popular Casino Games for Aussies

Without a doubt, pokie machines are the most popular form of gambling Down Under. According to the latest Australian Gambling Statistics report, over A$12bn was gambled on electronic gaming machines in Oz from 2015-16. In New South Wales alone, gamblers pumped A$79m into pokies, an AU$5m increase on the year before.

Pokies can be found in pubs, hotels, and sporting clubs affiliated with large AFL and NFL clubs. They can also be found in Australia's large offline casinos. Major pokies providers, Aristocrat and Ainsworth, rule the roost in terms of games. However, Keno is also offered at many TAB outlets in pubs across the nation.

Specific limits and bet sizes differ from state to state. The ways pokies work can also differ. For example, in Victoria, poker machines can't be fitted with autoplay buttons.

Australia's Top Land-Based Casinos

When it comes to online casinos, Australia-based gamblers have little in the way of choice. However, the offline choices are very different.

Australia boasts several high-profile land-based casinos, and more are being developed or built. The largest chain is Crown Casino, whose Crown Melbourne is one of the world's most famous casinos. Echo Entertainment also operates in Sydney and is making moves into Queensland.

In general, casino gambling laws differ slightly from state to state. In Victoria, for example, it's forbidden to allow pokies players to hit an autoplay button for repeated spins.

Crown Casino Melbourne: Australia's largest casino, Crown Melbourne offers a huge range of games to gamblers. As well as the Australia's biggest selection of pokie machines, players can also play Poker War, Pontoon, Roulette, Sic Bo, and Blackjack. The casino has a dedicated poker room and hosts the Aussie Millions Poker Championship every year.

The casino hit controversy in 2017, however, after it was accused of tampering with pokies and turning a blind eye to money-laundering.

Crown Resorts also run a casino in Perth and hope to open a new casino resort in Sydney in 2020. However, a stipulation of Crown's new Sydney resort is that the casino won't feature any poker machines at all. The new casino, to be built in Barangaroo, will cater mostly for VIPs and high rollers.

The Star (Echo Entertainment): Echo Entertainment's Star casino has enjoyed a long monopoly in Sydney. However, it will lose its sole exclusivity to local gamblers in 2020 when Crown opens its new casino.

The chain also operates The Star Gold Coast property. The Queensland casino offers over 1,600 pokies and gaming machines to gamblers as well as private gaming rooms and VIP tables. Along the coast in Brisbane, the Queen's Wharf redevelopment is set to feature a multi-billion-dollar casino resort. It is due to open in 2022.

The city's existing Treasury Casino will close in preparation for the new casino resort. It is expected that Queen's Wharf will have capacity for 2,500 pokies and gambling machines.

Legal Betting and Sportsbooks

Away from pokies, Aussies love to gamble on big sports contests. State-run TAB outlets take bets on Aussie Rules (AFL), football/soccer, rugby (NRL) and cricket. There is legalised horse racing across the country.

Big horse races like the Melbourne Cup take place every year and attract millions in wagers. In 2016, Aussies gambled A$657m across the four-day racing festival. Over half of that was gambled on the big race itself.

For online casinos, Australian gamblers often have to look to land-based casinos for their fix. However, the situation is different for sports betting. While the powerful pokies and hotels lobbies have helped stamp out online casinos Down Under, online sportsbooks are legal and licensed.

Some Australian bodies have complained of money going offshore to overseas sites. But in 2018, Australians can still bet at sports betting websites licensed in places like NT. Major UK betting firms now have Australian-facing portals which provide a safe and legal place to gamble on hundreds of markets.

Legalised Poker & Big Tournaments

After the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill was introduced, it spelt the end for online poker in Australia. Many of the largest poker sites immediately stopped operations in the country. However, some offshore poker websites still allow Australians to play real-money Texas Hold'em and Omaha.

Live poker is legal in licensed casinos Down Under. Indeed, the Crown Casino in Melbourne has one of the region's oldest and best-known cardrooms. The annual Aussie Millions Poker Championship is held every January while the world's top tennis players are battling it out in the Australian Open across the city.

The weeks-long Championship attracts thousands of the world's best poker players and top locals. The showpiece Aussie Millions Main Event is one of the world's most prestigious events and carries a buy-in of A$10,600. In 2018, 800 top pros took to the Crown Casino to battle it out for a first prize worth A$1.8m.

Since the Aussie Millions was first staged, other operators like PokerStars have set up their own tournaments Down Under. Australian casinos were hosts for regular stops on the Australia & New Zealand Poker Tour (ANZPT) and Asia-Pacific Poker Tour (APPT).

Head Out and Gambling in Oz in 2018

When it comes to casinos, Australia gamblers have a small but rich pool to pick from. And while you enjoy sportsbetting at your local TAB, or a roulette spin at the Crown Casino, the government continues to look into existing online laws. Reviews into the new gambling legislation amendments are ongoing. Pokies and roulette players will be hoping that the situation improves, but for now it's a case of watching and waiting.

Australian Gambling at a Glance

Population: 24 million

Legal Age of Gambling: 18

Land-based Casinos (Y/N): Y

Online Casinos Legal (Y/N): N

Popular Games: Pokies (slot machines), horse racing, sports betting, greyhound racing, AFL, RFL

Brief History of Gambling in Australia

1810 - First official horse race is held in Sydney.

1881 - First official Aussie lottery is set up to coincide with the Sydney Cup horse race.

1953 - Major gaming machine developer, Aristocrat, is set up. It remains one of the largest suppliers of pokies and slot machines in the world.

1956 - Australian hotels and clubs are allowed to supply poker machines legally. Aristocrat launches the Clubmaster, one of the world's first pokies to offer multiple paylines and scatters.

1973 - Australia's first legal casino, Wrest Point Hotel Casino, opens in Tasmania.

1994 - The Crown Casino opens in a temporary location in Melbourne. It opens a more permanent casino for Aussies three years later.

1995 - Ainsworth is founded and becomes one of Aristocrat's biggest pokie machine rivals.

1997 - Poker is introduced to Melbourne's Crown Casino. The Australasian Poker Championship is held a year later with a A$1,000 buy-in event. 74 runners turn up for the inaugural tournament.

2001 - The Interactive Gambling Act (IGA) 2001 is introduced. It outlaws Australian-based online gambling firms from operating. However, players Down Under are still able to access poker and online casino websites based overseas.

2001 - The Crown Casino hosts the inaugural Aussie Millions Poker Championship. The A$5,000 buy-in tournament attracts 40 runners. This number trebles a year later.

2016 - Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill is introduced. It clamps down on all offshore casinos and poker sites offering real-cash games to Australians.

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