Gambling in all its forms in incredibly popular in Australia. So much so, in fact, that the world’s 55th-largest country by population is ranked sixth in the world by gambling losses. In this Academy article, we’ll look at the Australian gambling market, from vital statistics on gambling in Australia to regulations and licensing fees.
History of Gambling in Australia
European settlers in Australia brought their favored forms of gambling with them, such as blackjack and roulette, as well as horse racing. The first recorded gambling event in modern Australian history was a horse race in Sydney’s Hyde Park in 1810. The first official lottery was in the 1880s.
In the 1950s, the perennially popular poker machines known as “pokies” began appearing in bars, pubs, and clubs. These machines, usually poker-themed, still account for a massive portion of Australian Gambling revenue. 1973 saw the opening of the first legal casino, the Wrest Point Hotel Casino, in Tasmania. Online casinos and poker sites began operating in the country in the 1990s.
Development of the Online Gambling Industry
Some online casinos were established in the early days of online gambling, most notably in the Northern Territory. Some states and territories legalized online gambling in the 1990s, but these laws were superseded by the Interactive Gambling Act (IGA) of 2001.
The IGA prohibits online casino and poker operators, including those licensed in offshore jurisdictions, from offering their services to Australian users. The scope of this act was broadened in successive amendments starting in 2016 to include more forms of gambling, such as lotteries, and expand the powers of regulatory bodies to enforce the act.
While the IGA prohibits online casino games and poker, online sports betting and lotteries are allowed. As is often the case, while conducting gambling activities online is illegal for operators, punters can do as they wish. The Australian government does not prosecute Australians who visit sites prohibited by the IGA.
State governments across the country have recently introduced Point of Consumption taxes for online sports betting. These taxes apply based on where the bet was placed, as opposed to where the bookmaker is licensed, apparently in reaction to both the Northern Territory’s lower gaming tax rates and the offshore operators who pay no tax at all.
Lasseter’s casino, in the Northern Territory, was licensed to offer online casino games to residents of the Northern Territory and foreign countries. The casino closed its online platform in 2008, as due to a recent American law, they were no longer able to serve the American market.
The general prohibition on online casino games has made Australian gamblers a favored target of offshore operators who can offer a service not available domestically.
Gambling Regulations and Licensing
Almost all forms of gambling are legal in Australia. Each state and territory has its own regulatory body or gambling activities. The chart below shows the regulatory body, licensing fees, and tax rates for each state or territory. The figures are taken from each regulatory body’s website.
License fees vary widely between states, and there are sometimes other related fees, such as machine technician and key person fees. For a complete list of all related fees, visit the state in question’s website.
|State or Territory||Regulatory Body||License Fees|
|New South Wales||Liquor and Gaming New South Wales||Unpublished|
|Queensland||Queensland Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation||Each casino in Queensland pays AUS $260,400 per quarter.|
|West Australia||Western Australian Department of Racing, Gaming, and Liquor||Application for a permit to conduct gaming on more than 10 tables: $429|
|South Australia||Independent Gaming Authority||Application for a gaming license: $619|
|Victoria||Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation||
Approval of premises: AUS $12,980.70
New operator’s license: AUS $2289.50
|Tasmania||Tasmanian Liquor and Gaming Commission||
Initial fee for Keno and gaming machines: $923.40
Renewal fee for Keno and gaming machine license: $729.00
Annual license fee for Keno and/or gaming machines: $1134 Plus $113.40 for each machine in excess of 10
|Northern Territory||Northern Territory Racing Commission and Licensing NT||
License fee: $1391 plus a levy.
For hotels, the levy is $54,504 per machine.
For clubs, the levy is $10,902 per machine.
Copy of the license: $66.
|Australian Capital Territory||Australian Capital Territory Gambling and Racing Commission||Fee available on request. There is only one casino in the ACT, Canberra Casino.|
The majority of corporate bookmakers are licensed in the Northern Territory, which offers an ‘internet gaming license’. This license could also be used for online casinos, provided the operator only offers those services outside the borders of Australia. They also offer gaming revenue tax rates as low as 4%. The Northern Territory is a common choice for operators facing the Asian market.
Gambling Taxes and Revenues in Australia
|State or Territory||Tax rate||2017 expenditure (In millions)|
|New South Wales||
Taxes on gaming machines are calculated according to quarterly profit.
-0% tax on revenues of $250,000 or less.
-28.05% tax on revenues between $250,000 and $450,000.
-18.05% tax on revenues between $450,000 and $1.25 million.
-22.5% tax on revenues between
$1.25 million and $2.5 million.
-24.5% tax on revenues between $2.5 million and $5 million.
-26.55% tax on revenues over $5 million.
Sports Betting: $152.295
-20% on normal play table revenue
-10% on junket revenue
-30% on EGM play revenue
Sports Betting: $18.294
|West Australia||-15% betting tax on revenues that exceed the AUS $150,000 threshold||
Sports Betting: $91.025
|South Australia||A gaming tax of 27.5% for hotel casinos and 21% for gaming clubs applies to revenues in excess of $75,000. This percentage, and an additional flat rate, increases as revenues hit higher thresholds.||
Sports Betting: $8.637
Tax is calculated on average monthly revenue per Electronic Gaming Machine.
For club venues:
For hotel venues:
Sports Betting: $327.491
4% of profit from non-Australian gamers
-20% of the first $10 million of gross profit
-17.5% of the portion of profit exceeding $10 million but less than $20 million
-15% of the portion of profit exceeding $20 million
Sports Betting: $3.378
|Northern Territory||-Depending on negotiation, as low as 4% of Gaming Revenue||
Sports Betting: $460.880
|Australian Capital Territory||
-25.9% of gross monthly revenue on EGMs in hotels
-10.9% of gross monthly revenue of EGMs in casinos
-2.53% of Keno turnover
-Betting operation tax of 15% of casino revenue over the threshold of $150,000
Popular Casinos in Australia
Australia is home to some massive casinos. The Star in Sydney is reportedly the size of seven football fields. The Crown Entertainment Complex in Melbourne occupies two entire city blocks and reportedly brings in over 12 million visitors a year. The Crown has 3500 poker machines, 400 game tables, and 50 poker tables. Crown Perth has 2000 poker machines and nearly 220 game tables. Jupiters hotel and casino in Queensland has 1400 poker machines and nearly 70 tables. Casino Canberra, the only casino in the Australian Capital Territory, is the only casino in Australia with no poker machines.
Gambling Statistics in Australia
While its popularity may have marginally declined, gambling is still massively popular in Australia, thanks in part to the ubiquitous “pokie” or electronic gaming machines. Only West Australia has a ban on pokies outside casinos, and throughout the rest of the country, they can be found almost everywhere, with pubs and clubs commonly featuring gaming rooms filled with the machines.
Australia has the highest rate of gambling participation in the world. Roughly 80% of adult Australians gamble at least once a year. Nearly 7 million Australians - roughly 39% of Australian adults - regularly spend money on at least one form of gambling in a typical month. Stretch the time period to three months, and the number of gamblers rises to nearly 50% of the population.
A survey conducted by H2 Gambling Capital found that Australians who gambled spend about $17.52 on gambling products per week. Between 62% and 77% of online gamblers are male, and the mean age of those who gamble online is 39. Online gamblers are likely to be employed and educated and their average yearly income is $90,000-$119,000.
The same survey revealed that Australians who gamble online do so for a few different reasons, including privacy, convenience, and the quality of the gambling products offered, believing that online products offer better choice, value, and service that land-based gambling services. 80% of Australians who gamble online bet on sports and racing, while 57% played table games and slots online. 26% played online poker.
The portrait of the Australian online gambler differs from that of the Australian gambler overall. According to data from the Australian Institute of Family Studies, a roughly equal proportion of gamblers from all income brackets participated in some form of gambling. 54.2% of regular gamblers were male and 46.8% were female. 64% of regular gamblers fall between the ages of 30 and 64. Roughly 38% of regular gamblers have a certificate or diploma.
Comparing the surveys of online gamblers and regular gamblers in general, online gamblers are more often male, more often have a university degree and a job, and have a higher average income.
According to research by H2, Australians are the world’s biggest losers when it comes to gambling. Australian gamblers consistently lose over $1000 a year, outspending Singaporean and American gamblers. H2 has been doing the same analysis every year, and while the 2nd to 10th places rearrange themselves, Australians are always on top. Or, as it were, at the bottom.
Gambling is hugely popular in Australia. However, due to the relatively small population and high level of gambling penetration - Australian gamblers are hardly at a loss for options - the market is fairly mature. The country is saturated with land-based casinos and sports betting options. However, according to Roy Morgan research, an increasing number of Australian sports bettors are doing so using their mobile devices. However, the market is largely dominated by a few large sports betting firms.
Australian laws regarding online poker and casino games are increasingly restrictive. A number of large online operators exited the Australian market after the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 was ratified by the Australian parliament. However, as the government does not prosecute punters themselves, only operators, a large number of online gambling platforms registered offshore still target the Australian market.