Interactive gambling

AGRC Discussion Paper No. 3 – November 2014

Interactive gambling in Australia

  • The only legal forms of interactive gambling in Australia are those offered by licensed wagering and lottery operators.
  • Around 8% of Australians gamble interactively. This participation rate has increased from an estimated 1% in 1999.

In Australia, the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (IGA) provides for overarching Commonwealth oversight, while allowing individual states and territories to retain some independent control. Under the IGA all interactive gambling is prohibited, with the exception of licensed wagering (excluding in-play betting) and lottery activities (Department of Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy [DBCDE], 2013). This regulation means that it is illegal for operators to offer unlicensed interactive gambling products to Australians, but it is not illegal for Australians to access offshore online gambling. This has created a situation where interactive gambling is partially legalised, but an estimated 2,233 offshore gambling sites provide services to Australians in contravention of Commonwealth laws. There are around 30-35 online gambling operators regulated by various states and territories in Australia.

Australia has one of the highest rates of Internet penetration and smartphone usage globally. Easy access to Internet-enabled devices, increased comfort with the use of Internet technology and online consumerism, in addition to a long-standing cultural acceptance of gambling, has resulted in a strong Internet gambling market. Despite its relatively small population, Australia is estimated to account for 5% of the global online gambling market (Gainsbury, 2012).

Participation in interactive gambling is growing rapidly. The rate of Australians gambling online has increased from a low base of under 1% in 1998-99 to 8% in 2011 (Gainsbury, Russell, Hing, Wood, Lubman et al., 2013). This growth in participation has occurred in the context of declining gambling participation rates overall, with annual participation decreasing from 82% in 1999 to 64% in 2011 (Gainsbury, Russell, Hing, Wood, Lubman et al., 2013). It was estimated in 2010 that the total value of interactive gambling in Australia was around AUD$1.6 billion, of which around 60% was spent on prohibited overseas services and the remainder with Australian licensed services (DBCDE, 2013).

The extent of domestic advertising and promotion for online wagering has increased substantially in recent years. Advertising has been found to increase awareness of this mode of gambling and increase the likelihood that gamblers shift from non-interactive to interactive modes (Hing, Cherney, Blaszczynski, Gainsbury, & Lubman, 2014). Internet gambling use is likely to continue to grow as interactive platforms (websites and applications) become increasingly used to engage in entertainment and recreational activities.