Isolated in geographical terms, Australia is a curious country when it comes to the rules and regulations of gambling. Like many of us around the world, a punt at a sporting event, a spin of the roulette wheel or a roll of the dice is part of life but there are some rigorous stipulations for anyone looking to trade here.
Australia can’t really be compared to America with a widespread ban on gambling across much of the nation but setting up in business can be tricky.
Walk into many bars in Australia and you’ll see row after row of ‘Pokies’ – automatic machines that provide poker and other slot games with dedicated punters pouring in their small change in over the course of an afternoon or evening. It would seem – certainly in some parts of the country – that gambling is openly embraced but that hasn’t always been the case.
Australia is a nation of diverse cultural influences with settlers from Europe and other parts of the world bringing their traditional games with them. Roulette, dice and the popular card games such as poker and blackjack were among these and they were enjoyed – with or without a side bet – for over a hundred years.
However, it wasn’t until 1973 that the first licensed casino opened its doors here and even then, the Wrest Point Hotel was even more isolated out on the Island of Tasmania! Even in the present day, there are little more than a dozen such casinos spread across such a vast landscape.
It seems that until the birth of the internet, gambling in Australia was a contentious issue among politicians and it’s one that is largely tolerated rather than embraced. Even the ‘pokies’ have been unpopular with the government but with only small stakes involved, these are accepted up and down the land.
With online gaming starting to take a hold however, it was decided that action was needed.
Rules and Regulations
Australia has always taken the line that gambling operators are the ones to be regulated and that its citizens are the ones to be protected from any potential issues. That is evidenced clearly in the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001 which was passed in response to the rise in online gaming.
Under this law, there are severe penalties if online casinos and bookmakers transgress but there are no consequences for any individuals taking a part in gambling – licensed or otherwise.
So exactly how does this protect those citizens? The act itself includes a number of stipulations that would seem strange in other parts of the world. For example – under the rules of the 2001 law, placing an in-play bet online is illegal and if a punter wants to gamble once a sporting event has started, they must either do it by telephone or place it in person at a licensed betting shop.
The thinking behind this may be logical: the inference is that an online in-play bet is a spontaneous thing that is carried out without too much assessment of the risk. However, when you stake by phone or at a shop, you have more time to consider your actions.
The act also prohibits advertising of ‘gambling services other than wagering’ so if you travel to Australia then you won’t see the same amount of TV ads that are common in the UK and in other parts of the world.
It’s clear from these rules that the government’s biggest concern is over online play. Across the globe, we think of this as a way to speed up the process and make it convenient to stake whenever and wherever we want. We are told all about responsible gambling but the act of 2001 takes that a stage further in order to protect its citizens.
Any operator breaching these laws is subject to a strict penalty but that hasn’t stopped bookies from thriving in a sector which is believed to be worth 500 Million AUSD. It’s the fastest growing area of the gaming industry and there are plenty of companies happy to get involved.
Tailored to their Customers
In recent years, a number of Aussie based bookmakers have cropped up to cater for the needs of their own countrymen. Operators such as Crownbet, Luxbet and PanBet are open to players from across the world – subject to the usual lists of restricted countries – but when you log on to any of these sites, you will notice that they are very ‘Australian’ in their focus.
Sports that are popular – and even specific to the country – are given prime status on the home page. This is what the Australian customer wants, although there are lots of additional sports if you have time to look a little harder.
The Interactive Gambling Act of 2001 makes it harder for operators outside of Australia to claim a licence but it is possible and in this growing part of the world, many of the most familiar household names are getting in on the action. bet365, William Hill and Unibet are among a list of providers trying to make inroads here but as one of those bookies has been finding out, it’s been a very competitive market.
An article that appeared on the Calvin Ayre website in June 2016 claimed that William Hill’s venture into the Australian market was ‘On the Rocks’. In the two years from 2013 to 2015, their share of this lucrative sector had dropped from 34 per cent to just 12 per cent and that was in a market that was said to be growing at a rate of 15 per cent each year.
There are many reasons behind this fall but one of the most striking is the rise in market share for some of William Hill’s competitors. Ladbrokes are another huge name in the world of online betting and they have enjoyed 50% growth in a recent three quarter period.
Add to that the impact made by locally based firms such as Crownbet and PanBet and the result is a struggle for Hills. The story is an interesting one but the main message as far as this article is concerned is the one that underlines Australia as a big growth area and one that more and more operators are looking to target and develop.
To anyone based outside of the country, Australian Rules Football is an odd game. To us it seems like an odd mix of American Football, rugby and a bit of soccer and unlike the name suggests, there seem to be few rules associated with it.
Aussie Rules Football represents a huge interest for Australian based players and although the majority of online bookies are making this market available for everyone across the world, it is far more popular in its country of origin.
Aussies are also loyal to their own clubs and teams and will actively stake in their own A League Soccer but they are fans of some of the strongest leagues around the world. The English Premier League and Spain’s La Liga attract plenty of interest from a spectator and betting point of view.
American Football and NBA Basketball are also popular but perhaps the biggest sport is horse racing. The season starts in August and takes in some of the richest races around the world including the Melbourne Cup, the Caulfield Cup and many other top class Group One renewals. Australians will have one eye on races in other parts of the world but they have so many excellent meetings on their own calendar that they rarely have to look away from their own country – except perhaps when their own season winds down in June and July.
Cricket and rugby – both league and union – are also popular in Australia but unlike soccer, your average Australian may not pay too much attention to what it happening with those sports in other parts of the world.
Legislation and the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001 in particular make this a tricky territory in which to gain a foothold but as we’ve seen, it’s certainly a lucrative one. Australian-specific bookmakers are growing and getting stronger while the big players such as William Hill are starting to find out just what a competitive sector this really is.
The government seek to protect their citizens and that can only be a good thing but the regulations won’t stop the interest in gambling that continues to spread right across Australia.