Australia has been a gambling nation since the first arrival of European settlers. The majority of these settlers came from Britain, which was itself a country that endorsed many forms of state-regulated gambling.
Traditionally Australia's most popular form of gambling was betting on the outcome of horse races, but as global trends introduced new things such as lotteries
, Australia embraced them. Slot machines arrived in the 1950s, and currently nearly all forms of gambling are permitted.
Today, despite remaining a source of public debate, gambling is deeply entrenched in Australian culture. In 2007 the BBC reported the statistic that over 80 percent of Australians take part in recreational gambling – which is a world record. Additionally, Australia houses a fifth of the slot machines known to exist in the world.
An analysis of Australian legislation around gambling shows a trend of initial prohibition followed by subsequent reversal to a position of regulation. For example, when settlers arrived in Australia, recognised gambling such has card games
and horse betting
were permitted but community based bets were forbidden. This has now changed.
The first state-licensed casino opened in 1970, and it's now possible to obtain a license to operate almost any form of betting at all. While the state of gambling in Australia is often criticised, it provides a significant stream of funding to the government.
This trend of leniency continued until the arrival of online gambling.
When online gambling burst onto the global scene in the mid-1990s, Australia was reasonably quick to respond. While the government didn't in principle object to the idea of Australians gambling over the Internet, the problem from their perspective was that they could not effectively regulate the industry, particularly as most of the key providers were not based in Australia.
In 2001 they passed the Australian Interactive Gambling Act, a moratorium that effectively made it illegal to offer gambling services to players who are logging on from within Australia. It applies to casino vendors both inside and outside of Australia, but the act has some interesting exceptions.
While operators outside Australia are specifically barred, local Australian providers are permitted to continue to offer online gambling if they had already acquired a license to do so prior to the ban taking effect. The Act only prohibits new Australian online casinos from opening, making Lasseters Online the only Australian-based casino able to operate.
To go along with this exception, the law does not criminalise the act of gambling over the internet. Therefore, Australians logging on to international casino sites are not committing an offence – by allowing them to play, the casino is.
Further, the Act specifically covers the types of games found in casinos, but does not cover betting on sports over the internet, an Australian pastime that continues to thrive.
So, it's safe to say that if you're inside Australia there's a wealth of online possibilities open to you without falling foul of the law. However, the Interactive Gambling Act is currently under review. It is not known whether its replacement will legitimise online gambling or drive it further underground.