The gambling law provisions in Australia: An overview

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In Australia, defining gambling comprehensively in a legal sense can be challenging. However, in general terms, gambling refers to an activity where individuals place money or tangible assets at risk on the result of an event, predominantly influenced by chance, such as a sports match or horse race. The primary objective must be to secure a prize or another valuable.

The federal and state governments have adopted a paternalistic approach towards gambling to safeguard the citizens from addiction and ill effects.

Across all states and territories in Australia, there is a prohibition on the conduct and promotion of gambling. However, certain exemptions are offered by law for the conduct of certain gambling activities under a license. Licensed activities include lotteries, online and offline betting, pokies, slot machines, etc.

In 2001, the Australian federal government enacted the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (IGA) to prohibit the offering of online gambling services by offshore operators  that cater to Australian customers. The enforcement of the IGA is carried out by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and the Australian Federal Police. The IGA expressly states that it has extra territorial operation.

The ACMA plays a proactive role in investigating reported violations of the IGA and regularly publishes updates on their enforcement actions, which include implementing website blocking measures against platforms found to be in breach of the IGA.

It is pursuant to IGA, ACMA has written to several regulators in foreign jurisdictions in recent times seeking action against online casinos in Australia.

To offer lawful types of online gambling, operators must necessarily own a state or territory-issued licence that enables online gambling. Licensed are also required for manufacturers of gambling related equipment.

Breaches of the IGA carry significant penalties including breaches of certain provisions leading to a civil penalty of up to 7,500 penalty units for individuals (A$1.665 million) or five times that amount for corporations (A$8.325 million). Additionally, gambling operators can incur sanctions for breaching their licence conditions or breaching legislation, or both under the state enactments. .