The History of Gambling in Australia

History of Gambling in Australia

For centuries, the Australian population has enjoyed gambling activities in venues across the country. From a bet on the cricket to a spin of the roulette wheel, Aussies seem to like a gamble more than most, and this has been reflected in the growth of gambling games over time.

Every gambling game has a story behind it, and our brief history of gambling Down Under will let you learn some of the facts behind the games you all know and love. From the first land-based games at Australian casinos all the way through to the real money Australian online gambling sites with which you are familiar today, we have it all

How gambling began in Australia

The first legal casino in Australia, the Wrest Point Hotel Casino in Tasmania, opened in February 1973 after several years' campaigning for a casino licence on the island. However gambling in Australia dates back even further than that.

With European settlers heading south from all across the continent, many naturally brought with them some traditions from their home countries, including gambling games. As such, popular games in Europe, such as roulette and blackjack, made their way to the Australian market long before the opening of the first legal casino.

The Australian gambling landscape

As things stand, Australia has more than a dozen casinos spread across several of its states and territories. Different parts of the country have their own individual legislation for gambling, both online and land-based, meaning different gambling games are more popular in some places than in others.

The same goes for other gambling games such as poker and sports betting. Tradition and habit have led to certain games being more popular than others, while legal elements have also played their part in some cases.

The pokies scene

One of the most popular gambling activities across Australia can be found in the form of the poker machines or 'pokies' found in bars, hotels and other venues the length and breadth of the country. Comparable to some of the slot machines found in Las Vegas casinos (despite the name being short for 'poker machines', they are rarely poker-specific), pokies offer regular Australians the opportunity to play for relatively small stakes while enjoying a drink with friends.

Pokies have been one of the more contentious forms of gambling among anti-gambling politicians, however they remain hugely popular with the Australian population to this day. You can head to licensed bars up and down the land to put a coin in the slot and hope to get lucky.

Online gambling laws in Australia

While pokies retain some of their charm, since the advent of the internet many countries have joined Australia in seeing substantial growth in internet sites offering players the chance to bet money on all manner of things. Games on offer range from electronic pokies (called 'slots' on non-Australian sites) to table games such as blackjack and roulette, while other games including keno, poker and sports betting are also available online.

In response to this growth, Australia's government passed the Interactive Gaming Act (IGA) in 2001 to control online gambling games Down Under. Presented as a public protection measure, the IGA does not criminalise the players' activity, but its elements include:

  • Penalties for operators offering their services to Australian players
  • No penalties for Australia-based companies offering their services to players overseas (with the exception of certain 'designated' countries)
  • No penalties for players whatsoever
  • Carve-outs for certain forms of gambling online, most notably pre-game (not in-play) sports betting

There have been efforts to tighten and to loosen said regulations, and it is always worth keeping an eye on the news to see if there are any changes to what is and isn't legal within the realm of online gambling.

The growth of online gambling in Australia

While the passage of the IGA has gone some way to clarifying the situation in Australia in relation to online gambling, the freedom offered to players has seen numerous online gambling activities grow in popularity across the country. Furthermore, gambling is legally considered to be a pastime rather than an outright profession, so Australian players are not required to pay tax on money they win betting on sports, playing poker or casino games, and so on.

Australian players have been able to choose from hundreds of different online gambling sites available to players from all over the world, with multiple offshore jurisdictions awarding operating licenses to these sites. While there are some standalone operators offering only one or two online gambling variants, a growing number will offer a combination of pokies, table games, online poker and sports betting, giving players plenty of choice.

Find the best sites

Now you know the story behind gambling in Australia, you can head over to our reviews page to find out which online casino sites are the best around for whatever you are looking for. Read the testimony of experienced casino players, then take your pick and start playing for real money today.

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