Online casinos in Australia work in a regulatory environment considered well-developed and stable. That is one of the reasons many of the top online gaming companies have built an Australian presence. Another reason is the interest Aussies have in gambling. According to USA Today, a bigger percentage of Australians gamble than any other nationality on Earth. As one might expect, they also lose more money per capita every year than any other group of people on the planet. Australians lose an average of $1,144 per year on gambling activities.
The online casino industry of Australia is therefore first-rate by any standards. In all, 224 Internet casinos which support the English language and the Australian dollars operate legally in Australia. The list of operators includes the usual suspects from the United Kingdom and Australian markets, as well as a few Aussie-focused websites.
Poker Machines – “Pokies”
The most significant gaming niche Down Under is the slot machines industry. Australia ranks only behind the United States in the number of slot machines, though Aussies call the devices “poker machines” or pokies. Another term Australian politicians and lawyers call pokies is EGMs, which is short for electronic gaming machines. Anti-gaming activists, public policy groups, religious groups, and social reformers seek to enact laws that limit or abolish the pokies. A couple of politicians, Independent Senators Nick Xenophon and Andrew Wilkie, based their stature in the country on their hostility towards gambling.
Online pokies are popular with Australians, too. Land-based gaming machine manufacturers like Aristocrat Leisure, International Game Technology (IGT), and Ainsworth Game Technology (AGT) all produce online pokies. These compete with Internet casinos powered by the European gaming software firms like Microgaming, Playtech, Betsoft, and NetEnt. Many Aussies choice a casino based on their favorite brand of pokie.
Interactive Gaming Act 2001
Online gaming laws in Australian were set by the Interactive Gaming Act of 2001. The IGA law has not been changed a great deal in the past 14 years, though the Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott each have suggested they might look at updating the iGaming laws. It should be noted that, under the IGA statute, it is not illegal for Australian gamblers to gamble online for real money. This creates an interesting legal situation where businesses cannot accept players, but the players can play. Let me explain how this law plays out in practical terms.
Under the IGA, gaming companies headquartered in Australian cannot build websites and accept real money players living in Australia. Legally licensed international online casinos can accept Australian players, meaning all the legal gaming providers are based offshore. Again, the biggest providers are the UK and European online casino companies. It should be noted that Australian gaming companies can register those living abroad to play, so Aussie companies can sign up international players, if it is legal to gamble online in those countries.
All of the payment options gamblers would expect are offered in most legit online casinos which use the AU dollar. This includes credit card companies like Visa and MasterCard. Diners Club International and JCB (“Japanese Credit Bureau”) are used on many websites. The JCB card is associated with Discover Card, so those who use Discover might check to see if their card works on a site–or apply for an English-language version of JCB cards (these exist). Also, American Express might be approved at a few websites. Obviously, debit cards associated with each company is going to be allowed for deposits, too.
Among the web wallets, the brand name payment methods are allowed. Neteller and Skrill are ubiquitous. E-vouchers like Ukash are available. The Australia-based POLi Payments offers its own system for funding gaming accounts. PayPal is also usable on most Australian online casinos.
Australians Gaming Online
All in all, Australians have easy access to online casinos. They have a wide variety of sites they might use with licenses issued from the major regulatory countries, such as Gibraltar, Malta, Kahnawake, Alderney, and the Isle of Man. Any payment method one would expect to find is usually offered, though some services do not allow withdrawals. These might have to be done with a bank wire transfer. Aussies should have no problem finding a favorite operator. The choice really comes down to game selection on the pokies, along with welcome bonuses and VIP rewards systems.
Even better, punters Down Under don’t need to worry about prosecution. The Interactive Gaming Act specifically states gamblers can gamble on the Internet, though they might be monitored. The law might change in the future, but Nick Xenophon and Andrew Wilkie focus most of their attention on getting poker machines out of land-based casinos, clubs, and pubs across the land. For gamblers in Australia, they are going to hear more about “mandatory pre-commitment” schemes and the placement of ATM machines than any kind of online gaming law resembling the UIGEA.