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Australian bookmakers under pressure as new legislation hits hard

Online gambling is incredibly popular in Australia with around 80% of Australians gambling at least once a year. Adults in Australia gamble more per capita than any other nation in the world, an average of $976.50 per adult. That is 40% higher than Singapore, the runner-up, and around double the average in other Western countries. The existing loopholes in the gambling law created a gray area allowing almost every form of online gambling. This has attracted many of the world’s top online gambling sites, as well as illegal operators to enter the Australian market.

However, the landscape has seen big changes recently, with the government introduction of the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill in 2016, limiting Aussie players in the game types they are allowed to enjoy. Under the new Australian gambling legislation, sports betting is the only gambling activity which is explicitly proclaimed as legal in the country. Australian gamblers are no longer allowed to access casino or poker sites.

In 2017, the Australian Government promised to ban TV sports betting ads during children’s viewing hours to provide a clear and practical zone for families and children to watch live sports. The reforms took effect in March 2018 and banned gambling ads during live sporting events.

The point of consumption tax was also introduced, forcing betting companies to pay the state 15% of the net revenue they earn from bets, in order to tackle the tax evasion of companies licensed in the Northern Territory.

Additionally, the federal and state governments agreed to ban online betting companies from extending lines of credit to customers. The ban came into effect nationally in February 2018 and stops gambling companies from offering “free” bets to customers when they run out of money.

The government actions put a massive pressure on the gambling companies’ profits and caused the exodus of some of the largest international gaming brands from the Australian market. Despite the government’s good intentions, the recent legislation changes are raising serious questions concerning the future and safety of gambling in Australia. The previously existing loopholes were not a good thing, but still, they allowed the licensed and regulated brands to run their online gambling operations in the country. With the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 being implemented, it is exactly the licensed brands that are exiting the country, leaving the market to the ones that operate without license and monitoring. This equates to lack of adequate customer protection, lack of proper customer support and more unfavorable conditions for local players.