Those who aren’t yet acquainted with the Australian gambling situation may be surprised to see how complex it is. From state to federal level, it’s a mess but the result is well known – the good operators fled the market and the brave but not-as-reputable ones remained.
The states are actually traditionally regulating land-based gambling, but with the emergence of online gambling, the Commonwealth took over and, basically, banned the whole thing. This left online operators – Australian or offshore – without a chance to get licenced so they can offer their gambling services to Australians, the most gambling-infected nation in the world. Estimates vary, but around two third of adults in Australia gamble.
Operators are liable; players are not
Australians aren’t held liable for gambling, and aren’t taxed either. That means an Australian resident is free to gamble wherever he/she wants, with legal or illegal operators, and there will be no penalty or prosecution.
It is the operators that are under scrutiny, as Australian gambling laws say that it’s illegal to offer online gambling services to Australians. This had the consequence of clearing the market of those brands that do their business in a perfectly legal kind of way, as the chance to operate legally was taken away from them.
The good brands ran away
The operators that remained are those that saw the opportunity to fill the gap left by the big brands who vacated the premises, and are willing to take risks. These aren’t necessarily poor or shady brands, though many of them are, it’s just that the best of the best are no longer present on the market.
One by one, the biggest gambling brands worldwide have shut down the Australian market. They are refusing to accept Australian players, and have also ceased all advertising in the country, online or otherwise.
Reduction in quality of slot machines
The Interactive Gambling Act also had a crucial effect on slot machine developers, or pokies as Aussies call them. While many online casinos would like to keep offering all their slots to their Australian players, this is simply not possible. Just like online casinos, slot game developers go about their business differently, and some choose to go down the perfectly legal and regulated route (NetEnt, Playtech), some don’t care much but won’t mess with legal problems (Microgaming), while some target the unregulated markets (Realtime Gaming, Betsoft, Rival).
This had a big effect on the quality of slots that Aussies can play, and is perhaps the most devastating blow to the gambling nation. As it turns out, Australian players can no longer play some of the most popular titles (most of which were released by NetEnt) nor can they win progressive jackpots in slots like Mega Moolah or numerous progressive slots by NetEnt.
Possible future developments
There doesn’t seem to be an improvement in sight when it comes to issuing licences – which would be a bond of trust between a player and an online casino. Australia has spent almost two decades trying to find a way to put the clamp down on online gambling, and now when they’ve finally succeeded (in chasing most brands away), they’re not letting go.
Meanwhile, players in Australia enjoy no protection by the regulatory body whatsoever, and are completely exposed to potential scams by bad actors. It is only the third-party websites that can steer the players in the right direction by reviewing online casinos and doing necessary background checks.