Gauging the Way Forward for Sports Betting in Australia

It’s no secret that Aussies love to gamble. In fact, over 80% of the adult population frequently takes some kind of punt, whether that be backing their favourite team or buying a weekly lottery ticket.

This is the highest rate of gamblers on the entire planet. Sports betting makes up the lion’s share of the gambling activity in the nation at an impressive 44%. Each year, the popular pastime down under sees the public part with around $1 billion to make various bets on rugby, cricket, and Aussie Rules. It’s a lucrative industry for sure but of course in such a vast market, problem gamblers are, well, a problem.

Despite efforts from the various state legislators to decrease the numbers of Australians engaged in the pastime of sports betting for fear of them developing addiction, there seems to be little sign of the booming market contracting any time soon. In this article, we’ll look at the current legal state of sports betting, the future of the pastime in Australia and how it is likely to change going forward.

The Current Legal Climate

Its currently perfectly legal for the public to bet on sports and for operators to provide bookmaking services in Australia. The national government allows both instore and online betting. There are just two rules that govern the entire nation on the matter, whilst a host of other regulations affect those living in the different states. Firstly, all those betting on sports must be at least 18 years of age. Secondly, valid identification must be presented by all customers.

The main piece of national legislation that governs sportsbooks is the Race and Sports Bookmaking Act of 2001. Meanwhile, online sports betting is covered by the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001. Although this latter act bans Australian citizens from many forms of online gambling, licensed online sportsbooks are not prohibited. That said, the Interactive Gambling Act does forbid live or in-play betting. This is something that operators based in Australia take great issue with, particularly given that such options are immensely popular in other parts of the world such as Europe.

These two pieces of legislation are supported by a host of state level rules that determine what is and what isn’t allowed in each of the territories. The two-tiered approach means that Australian bookmakers operate under one of the most robust set of regulations on the planet in terms of sports betting. This has allowed a great number of both online and brick-and-mortar casinos to serve those who prefer real money action such at that found at in the nation, whilst contributing heavily to both state and federal government coffers.

Several third-party testers and watchdogs currently serve both the online and land-based sportsbook industries. They frequently publish their findings, and this allows the Australian people to make an informed choice about where they gamble. They also provide assurance that punters are secure and safe at all the licensed bookmakers of the nation.

The Problem of Problem Gamblers

Since such a large portion of the adult population of Australia gambles, the nation has one of the largest populations of problem gamblers on earth. This has heavily influenced regulations, as lawmakers continually try to decrease the likelihood that an individual will develop compulsive gambling habits.

The ban on live betting is one such example of an effort to curb problem gambling. However, its efficacy is limited. Many offshore bookmakers that do not hold licences with Australian regulatory bodies target the island. These have no problem with offering in-play betting.

Naturally, being as they are unregulated, players who use these services do not have access to the same level of protection and safety precautions as those who use the legal, regulated options. This means that its much more difficult for those suffering from gambling compulsions to get the help they need.

Since the issue of problem gambling is more pronounced in Australia than it is elsewhere, Australian ministers debate matters of gambling more often than the lawmakers of most other nations. This means the law is constantly evolving and that player safety is treated as an utmost concern. With the next general election potentially just months away, the system of regulations could be set to change again, pending the will of the people.

The ruling Coalition government is largely in favour of land-based gambling opportunities and less positive about their online counterpart. Meanwhile, their main opposition, the Labour Party, takes the opposite stance.

The Future of Sports Betting in Australia

As mentioned, the restrictions on live betting have prompted many Australians to use offshore bookmaker’s websites. This causes a serious dint in the tax revenue generated by the government. In addition, it means that those with gambling addictions are less likely to be picked up by the various legal precautions that fully-licensed Australian bookmakers must abide by. In fact, the problem of citizens visiting offshore bookmakers is so severe that the government is consideringreversingthe ban on in-play betting in the near future.

A recent government commissioned study into the numbers using offshore services has prompted the federal sports minister, Bridget McKenzie to consider the pros and cons of such as reversal. It is unclear for now which way McKenzie will decide. However, from the numbers flocking to offshore options and the loss of revenue that domestic operators suffer as a result of the regulation, it seems that most of those involved in the industry are praying for a full reversal of the failed legislation.