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The idea of gambling via the Internet first came about
in 1995 when the first virtual casinos started to appear online. Most of these sites were located in places such as the Caribbean but
by 1999 it looked like Australia might become one of the worlds biggest
online gaming jurisdictions.
A BBC article from 1999 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/381815.stm)
stated "Australia is determined to become the cyber casino capital of
the world and has already set up its first fully regulated, government
backed gambling Website". At the time it looked like Australian pokie
players would have a whole new way to play - that was until mid 2000.
The Australian government introduced the Interactive Gambling Act of
2000 which changed the laws and restricted Australian online gambling
sites from taking wagers from Australians. This act was valid for one
year at which time the government introduced the Interactive Gambling
Act of 2001 which is still in operation today.
The details of the act are quite complex but in general it is targeted
at the operators of online gambling businesses rather than players. There was a fully government licensed and regulated casino based in the
Northern Territory of Australia - Lasseters. As they were online before
the bill was passed they were allowed to stay online but not take bets
from Australians however they closed in 2008.
One has to ask what was the purpose of the bill. Some claim it was to slow
down the increasing amount of problem gamblers but this seems a little
hypocritical when you consider that pokies are found in just about every
pub and certainly in every sporting club.
Some say that the government did
not want to lose the gambling revenues offshore but this also seems
like a strange excuse as they could have easily regulated more Australian
sites and therefore also shared in the additional income. One conflict
of interest was brought up on the ABC's 7:30 Report (http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/stories/s255754.htm).
Probably one of the biggest impacts the IGA had relates to the ban on advertising interactive gambling services. Before 2000 it was common to see ads for well known internet casinos at major Australian portals. In recent times the sports betting companies have won the right to advertise their sports products but still cannot advertise or offer casino and poker to players in Australia.
So are Australians allowed to gamble online? According to the government
web site outlining the bill, yes. Although they do put in the clause that
the IGA does not
override the laws of other jurisdictions. Having said that, you will not find games by Aristocrat online so if you are looking to play Queen of the Nile online you are out of luck. We have seen some IGT games online but Australian players cannot play as the casinos have banned Australians.
When we look back at the history of gambling in Australia and the history
of pokies in particular there were over 50 years where the games were able
to be found but were prohibited. In 1956 the government finally realized
that they stood to make billions if they
legalized them and regulated their use. Surely at some point in the next
50 years the same will happen with online pokies. Until then pokie players
will either have to play at offshore online casinos or stick to the games
at the pubs, clubs and casinos.
Interactive Gambling Act at ComLaw.gov.au
Side Note : The above article is a commentary on Internet Gambling in
Australia and should not be considered as legal advice. If you do choose
to play online you should investigate further.