Changes to Australia’s online gambling laws have left many players unsure of whether they’re allowed to play for real money at online casinos or not. We clarify the legal landscape of online casinos in Australia in 2017 and explain where Aussie punters are legally allowed to play for real money on the Internet.
Is online gambling illegal in Australia?
The major piece of legislation responsible for governing Australia’s online gambling laws is the Interactive Gambling Act (IGA). The IGA was first established by the Howard government in 2001 when online gambling first started to gain popularity, with the intention being to prevent gambling from entering the homes of Australian families. The IGA made it illegal for any online gambling operators to offer or advertise their services to Aussie players, but the laws were full of all kinds of loopholes which meant Aussies could still freely and legally continue to play for real money at online casinos, provided the casino was located overseas and thus operating outside of the Australian legal system.
In March 2017, the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill was passed in parliament in a bid to close those loopholes once and for all. Under the IGA amendments, all online gambling operators, both local and foreign, are forbidden from servicing the Australian market unless they hold an official license from an Australian state or territory. The catch here is no Australian state or territory issues such licenses, essentially making it illegal for Australians to gamble online, even if the casino is located offshore.
While the IGA amendments have been passed, they have yet to be officially enacted. It is expected the laws will come into official effect in May 2017 and only then will we get an exact picture of the impact the amendments will make.
Are there penalties for Aussies playing online?
While the IGA amendments cleared up the grey areas surrounding the legality of gambling at offshore casino sites, the government did not implement any penalties for Australians who choose to ignore the laws and continue to play online. It is the online casino operators who will be targeted under the new laws, not the players, so while it is technically against the law for Aussies to gamble online, new technologies like VPNs (virtual private networks) mean many players will continue to do so with no legal consequence. If you do choose to play at offshore casino sites, be aware it is against the law and you are doing so at your own risk.
Online casinos not allowed in Australia
As explained above, no online casino is legally allowed to operate in Australia unless it has received official licensing from an Australian state or territory. While the Australian government may take inspiration from the United Kingdom in the future and attempt to regulate the online gambling market to reap the tax benefits and ensure Aussie gambling dollars go back into the Australian economy, as of 2017 there are no online casinos licensed to operate in Australia.
Is it illegal to gamble at offshore casinos?
Yes, under the IGA amendments it is illegal for Australians to gamble at offshore casino sites. However, as there are no punishments for doing so, many of the leading offshore casinos have decided to continue to service the Australian market regardless of the new legislations.
Some of the big-name operators like 32Red, Roxy Palace and John & Vera have already dropped out of Australia, some others like Emu Casino have made it clear they intend to stay, while the status of others is unclear. When the IGA amendments are officially passed in May 2017, only time will tell the true impact the amendments will have on the way Australians can play for real money online. It is not yet known whether Australia will make moves to block offshore casinos or prevent banks from processing payments to gambling-related sites.
Is it still safe to access online casinos in Australia?
It is your own personal responsibility to be aware of the online gambling laws applying to you and be aware any online activity you choose to participate in is at your own risk. If you do decide to play for real money online, there are plenty of legitimate online casinos catering to Australian players, and you should always take caution to ensure you stick with vendors who:
- Are licensed by a reputable international gambling jurisdiction like the United Kingdom, Malta, Gibraltar, Isle of Man, Curacao, Alderney of Kahnawake.
- Are protected by a very minimum of 128 Bit SSL (secure socket layer) digital encryption security.
- Offer a range of secure real money deposit options like Visa, MasterCard, Neteller, Skrill, Paysafecard, Flexepin and direct bank transfers.
- Provide games from leading software developers like Microgaming, BetSoft, NetEnt, iSoftBet, Play’n Go, Evolution Gaming, Ezugi, Quickspin, NextGen and many others.
- Are certified by independent third-party testing authorities like eCOGRA.
- Have dedicated customer service teams on standby to assist with any queries.
There are plenty of dodgy operators who will take advantage of the strict laws Australia has put in place, so it’s important to continue to avoid any rogue sites no matter what. If you’re unsure of the reputation of an online casino, a quick Google search should be able to determine whether it is safe to play or whether you should run for the hills.