Australian Online Casinos
Australia was one of the first countries to pass a bill which regulated and restricted online casino operators. The Interactive Gambling Act goes all the way back to 2001, and is targeted at casino site operators in Australia, rather than players. While technically speaking, international casino operators may be breaking this law by offering games to Australian players, they continue to do so. From time to time the government states that they are looking into this area, however there are no new bills on the horizon at the time of writing.
This article fills in the details of the legal situation for online casinos in Australia. First of all, I have covered the Interactive Gambling Act, including the practical implications of this. Next the reality on the ground is explained, including the options available to players along with possible future scenarios. Finally, some of the key factors Australian online casino players should take into account when choosing a casino are explained.
Australian Online Casino Regulation – The IGA
There is a strange contradiction in the Interactive Gambling Act, which was passed into law back in 2001. This makes it illegal for casino operators based on Australian soil to offer games to Australians. The effect was to leave Australian operators free to offer their games to players outside of this country. At the same time the lack of any enforcement mechanism means that international casinos freely offer games to Australians.
Nowhere in this legislation are players targeted. This means that you are free to gamble online for real money without breaking the law.
The setup for the regulation of brick and mortar gambling is that the individual States control this under the guidelines of the central government. This includes licensing and even details such as specifying the minimum payback percentages of slots (known as ‘pokies’ in this country).
Australia does have some big and influential casino gaming software houses – the biggest example being Aristocrat, which makes a lot of the live slots here, as well as online games. International players can enjoy these games online – while if you are in Australia you are only able to play them in the live setting.
Government Promises to Protect ‘Problem Gamblers’
Successive Australian governments have promised to step in with strict regulation of the offshore gambling sites with the goal of ‘protecting problem gamblers’. While this sounds very worthy, the successful licensing and taxation strategies of many countries around the world cannot have escaped the notice of Australia’s politicians.
At the time of writing this does not seem to be very high on the political agenda, however the non-enforcement of access to international casinos may be coming to an end in the not too distant future. At this point in time it would be impossible to know whether the individual States would have a hand in any regulation, or whether this would be only under the remit of the central government.
As things stand, Australians can access all of the big and legitimate international brands. Many of these value the Australian market so much that they have made both deposits and play possible in the local currency (AUD).
Choosing an Australian Online Casino
With the full range of international casinos available, choosing a legitimate operator which ticks all the right boxes for Australian players can be quite a challenge. The ability to play in AUD is an advantage, though most casinos will let you deposit and cash out in your local currency and play in Euros or USD, so this not a requirement.
The more important factors to check for are game selection, legitimacy (license, fairness) and bonuses which are easy to clear.
Nowadays, many casinos are moving away from the single software provider operating model. Instead of a download of one major software type, you’ll find instant-play games which select the top titles from a lot of different software houses. A casino might choose (for example) PlayTech as their main platform, and then offer games from NetEnt, MicroGaming or IGT via extra ‘Vegas’ or ‘Arcade’ sections on their site. I recommend you look out for these multi-platform sites, as the game selection is just so much wider.
Before I deposit at any casino, I like to check that they are a legitimate operator. A license from a known licensing authority is a must, and ‘no license – no deposit’ should be strictly adhered to. You should also check that the game fairness (RNG) and payback percentages have been externally verified by a known auditing company for that extra peace of mind.
Finally, it can be very worthwhile having a dig through the terms and conditions of the bonus offers at different casinos before you select one. There are often very big differences in your wager through requirements, excluded games list and whether you can cash out the bonus amount or only the winnings.