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Sports Betting Regulation In Australia

Published by Sharon Kingsby
Published on 03 Jul 2019 by Sharon Kingsby
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When considering gambling, the first thing that generally comes to mind are online casinos. However, with a nation so obsessed with sports, it is only a natural consequence that sports betting is commonplace in Australia. But is it legal? What is the current legislation surrounding sports betting in Australia? Find out what our experts share about the current state of sports betting regulation in Australia.

The Share Of Sports Betting In The Australian Market

Government surveys indicate that Australians wagered close to 200 billion dollars in 2016-17. Sports betting accounts for a significant share of this massive market.

Australian punters place bets worth billions of dollars on horse racing, football, rugby, and other popular sports. $33 billion worth of wagers in 2017 alone.

Australians spend an average of $220 per-year per-person on sports betting.

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How Australia Regulates Legal Gambling

From the above figures alone, it is quite clear that gambling is part of the social and cultural fabric of Australian life. To fully understand the legality of sports betting in Australia, it is important to get an idea of how gambling legislation works in Australia.

There are two levels of governments who can pass laws on gambling in Australia:

  1. The Federal Government
  2. The 8 territorial governments - New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia, Victoria, Northern Territory, and Australian Capital Territory

The Federal Government has the constitutional right to pass laws that regulate broad issues like trade, money transactions, consumer rights, and telecommunications.

Using these powers, the central government and its agencies control many aspects of gambling in Australia, including online gambling, money laundering and terrorism funding (prevention), and consumer protection.

Beyond this, local territories are free to pass their own laws related to licensing of gambling businesses within their jurisdiction. They create laws and regulations that govern how gambling businesses located in these states are supposed to conduct business.

The legal status of sports betting in Australia

Sports betting is completely legal in Australia, and it is available both in online and offline formats. The primary legislation on gambling in the country is the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001 (IGA).

Given the massive appetite for gambling among Australians, outright prohibition was never going to be a viable solution.

The IGA was passed to create a well-regulated domestic betting industry that serves the Australian consumers under the watchful eyes of government agencies.

The primary watchdog for the industry in Australia is the Australian Communications & Media Authority (ACMA).

As of 2019, the law clearly mandates that only domestic sportsbooks are allowed to serve Australian customers.

In order to do so, they need different licenses to provide sports betting in Australia:

  1. Operator license is mandatory to offer tote betting on racing and fixed/odds betting on racing and other sports.
  2. Bookmaker license is essential to conduct sports and racing bookmaking in Australia.

Operator license allows businesses to offer sports betting in different forms, at racecourses, retail outlets, and most popularly through online websites/apps, and by telephone.

Interestingly, most of the bookmaker’s licenses are concentrated in the Northern Territory due to its favorable laws.

All the big corporate entities in sports betting have their bases in this state. They can offer online and telephone-based betting markets on racing and other sports.

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The Status Of Offshore Sportsbooks

Prior to 2018, there were certain grey areas in the IGA provisions which provided loopholes for offshore operators to serve Australian customers.

This led to a proliferation of both licensed and unlicensed sportsbooks taking bets from Australian punters. There was one key reason for the success of these operators - lack of live in-play betting in Australia.

The Australian gambling laws do not allow licensed sportsbooks to offer live bets during sports matches - all the bets have to be placed beforehand.

Unfettered by these local laws, foreign operators were free to provide the excitement of live bets, and gain untaxed revenues in the process. Most of them were licensed in the UK, EU, the Caribbean, and the US.

This situation persisted until 2018, when the government passed amendments to the IGA that did two things:

  1. It removed the confusion/ambiguity regarding offshore sportsbooks - they are now explicitly illegal in Australia, unless they have a valid license issued by an Australian authority.
  2. Credit betting and in-play betting services are also explicitly prohibited in Australia.

The ACMA was armed with formidable powers, including the ability to issue fines of millions of dollars per day to individuals and operators who violate the new law.

This has led to a crackdown on overseas sportsbooks, many of which have been forced to shut their services to the Australian market.

Popular sports betting markets in Australia

Despite its relatively low population of just around 25 million, Australia is a sporting powerhouse in many fields like cricket, rugby, and swimming. The country is passionate about sports, and bookmakers accept bets on a wide range of sporting events, both inside the country as well as in foreign locations.

The following are the most popular sports that Australians bet on a regular basis:

  1. Rugby League: the domestic competition is called the National Rugby League (NRL). You can place bets on NRL matches as well as international tournaments involving the Wallabies (the Australian national team)
  2. Football: the A-league is the domestic league of Australia. Bets can be placed on A-League matches as well as popular European leagues like English Premier League and the Spanish La Liga.
  3. NFL & AFL: both Australian Rules football and American Football (gridiron) have strong fan bases in Australia. Both leagues are popular targets for punters.
  4. Tennis, cricket, and other sports/athletics: Other less popular betting markets include these sports matches and tournaments. The Australian open and important cricket tournaments like the World Cup and The Ashes bring in a lot of bets to sportsbooks in Australia.

Conclusion

Sports betting is legal in Australia, but subject to stringent provisions and restrictions. Only domestic licensed operators can provide sports betting services to Australian punters.

The law has been further strengthened in recent years to successfully curb the proliferation of illegal offshore sportsbooks.

For Australian players, the impact is mixed, but somewhat positive - they don’t have access to exciting avenues like live in-play betting, but as a trade-off, they do have provisions to protect their right as customers of a legal, regulated industry.