Australian Gambling Market May Soon Boot International Operators
Australia was among the first countries to adopt regulated online gambling frameworks back in the early 1990’s. Today it has grown into one of the largest betting markets in the world. While the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001 did what it could to address an iGaming industry in its infancy, no one could predict just how large the scope of online gambling would become.
Substantial loopholes in Australian online gaming law exist to this day that many believe offer a safe haven for less than reputable operators, both foreign and domestic. Sports betting and lotteries were the only two forms of online gambling expressly deemed legal according to the 2012 legislation. However, no language existed to prohibit other online gaming avenues, such as casino and poker.
If Wikipedia is any measure of how prevalent the practice is in Australia, statistics show that 80% of Australian adults participate in gambling, with 4% of that playing on pokies, also known as fruit machines or slots, every week. Now that online gaming is one of the largest and most lucrative industries in the world, lobbyists in Australia are clamoring for change in regard to how online gambling operations are regulated at home.
Last year’s publication of the Review of Illegal Offshore Wagering paved the way for something to be done. As a result, Minister of Human Services Alan Tudge brought his Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 (IGA Bill 2016) to the floor. The bill seeks to amend iGaming laws that are already on the books to a point where it is expressly stated that unlicensed, and by proxy illegal, online gambling operators will be prohibited from offering or promoting their services to Australian players.
If signed into law, online casinos and poker would essentially become illegal in Australia, overnight. Sports betting would remain largely unaffected, while international bookmakers would be subject to licensing requirements if they wished to continue providing their services to Australian punters.
International Operators Uneasy
Australia’s iGaming market is one of the largest in the world and as such it garners a lot of attention from the biggest operators in online gambling industries across the board. Some of the largest operators in the world, such as Ladbrokes, Paddy Power and Bet365, have all invested in Aussie gambling companies. William Hill alone has poured more than $700 million into Australian betting brands, Sportingbet, Centrebet, and Tom Waterhouse since 2013. Because international operators have enjoyed such great success in the Aussie market, they are keen to keep operations afloat in Oceania.
Citing the need for more socially responsible operations, Australian officials assert that regulation is a necessity for the multi-billion dollar industry to remain a viable one. Though many operators point to examples of over-regulation as an overstep that could kill the industry and drive punters to seek the services of illegal operators to get their kicks.
Some operators have already decided to jump ship, including 888poker and Vera & John, with PokerStars expected to withdraw their Australian operations should any such online poker regulations be introduced.
Officials believe that IGA Bill 2016 has a very real chance of being passed into law in the near future, making unlicensed operations a thing of the past. It’s within reason that Australia poses so much of a draw that regulation won’t become a hurdle for continued betting operations. However, many industry insiders urge caution to lawmakers against strangling operators with regulation and provide breathing room for expansion.
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