Gambling in Australia

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Gambling is an activity undertaken by many Australians. Over 80% of Australian adults engage in gambling of some kind, which is the highest rate of gambling in the world.[1] This number includes some 4% of the adult population who play the pokies once a week, accounting for some 62% of locals’ annual gambling spend.[2]

Total employment in the gambling industry in Australia (thousands of people) since 1984

Gambling is a significant public health issue, with around 80,000 to 160,000 (or 0.5 - 1.0%) of Australian adults experiencing significant problems from gambling and a further 250,000 to 350,000 (or 1.4 - 2.1% of adults) experiencing moderate risks that may make them vulnerable to problem gambling.[3] The social cost of problem gambling to the community is estimated to be at least $4.7 billion each year.


In 2007-08 the states collected about $3 billion from poker machines, and $4.9 billion from all forms of gambling, accounting for 9.1% of their total revenue.[4] The NSW government receives about $1 billion from poker machines, and $1.6 billion from all forms of gambling. [4]

Total Australian gambling revenue in 2008-09 was just over $19 billion and the share of household consumption was 3.1%[3]

New South Wales[edit]

New South Wales has a long history of gambling; Australia’s first official horse racing meeting occurred in 1810 at Hyde Park in Sydney; the first official Australian lottery occurred in 1881 at the Sydney Cup; and registered clubs operated the first legal poker machines in Australia from 1956.[5]

Approximately 95,800 of "pokies" are in NSW, a state total beaten only by Nevada, which operated 181,109 gambling machines in 2014.[6]


Fairfield had the highest poker machine revenue in the state for 2013, generating $298 million in clubs and $93 million in pubs, from the start of the year to August.[7] This figure is $123 million greater than the combined total of profits generated from poker machines in the City of Sydney.[7]

Hunter Region[edit]

From January to March 2013 poker machines in the Hunter region had a turn over of $4.5 billion, showing an increase of $500 million since 2010.[8] Daily figures show a spend of $12.5 million, working out to be $8682 per minute.[8] The Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing found that Newcastle was the Hunter Regions most profitable location with the 3206 poker machines averaging $44,963 each.[8] The top five most profitable clubs for gaming revenue in the Hunter region in 2010 were:[9]

  • 1. Western Suburbs Leagues Club (Wests), New Lambton
  • 2. Wests (formerly Club Phoenix), Mayfield
  • 3. Wallsend RSL & Community Club, Wallsend
  • 4. Belmont 16 Foot Sailing Club, Belmont
  • 5. Cardiff Panthers, Cardiff

The top five most profitable hotels for gaming revenue in the Hunter region in 2010 were.[9]

  • 1. The George Tavern, East Maitland
  • 2. Bay Hotel Motel, Bonnells Bay
  • 3. Hotel Jesmond, Jesmond
  • 4. The Lake Macquarie Tavern, Mount Hutton
  • 5. Warners Bay Hotel, Warners Bay

Central Coast Region[edit]

Gosford has approximately 1928 pokies, spread across 37 venues. That is the equivalent of one poker machine for every 71 adults. In 2010-11, venues in Gosford made approximately $95,865,000 in profit from pokies. That equates to $700 for each adult member of Gosford's population.[10]

Wyong has approximately 2608 pokies, spread across 35 venues. That is the equivalent of one poker machine for every 47 adults. In 2010-11, venues in Wyong made approximately $123,159,000 in profit from pokies. That equates to $1,000 for each adult member of Wyong's population.[10]

The Central Coast has a higher prevalence of problem gambling than the NSW average. Young men between the ages of 18-24 living on the Central Coast are the biggest players of poker machines in NSW and are the highest risk group for problem gambling.[11]

In 2008 Central Coast Gambling Help carried out a survey of 200 young people aged from 13-24 and found:

  • 96% of people from 18-24 had gambled for money or possessions
  • 62% of those under 14 years old and 77% of those aged up to 17 had gambled for money or items, including mobile phones and MP3 players
  • 25.5% of 14- to 17-year-olds and 55% of 18- to 24-year-olds had lost more than they had intended
  • and 6% under 18 had played a poker machine[12]

Regulatory authorities[edit]

Since the introduction of new gambling services, including online gambling, the Commonwealth has taken a more active role in the regulation of gambling, but the Australian gambling industry is also regulated by State and Territory authorities:[13]

  • Australian Capital Territory - ACT Gambling and Racing Commission
  • New South Wales - New South Wales Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing
  • Northern Territory - Licensing Commission
  • Queensland - Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation
  • South Australia - Independent Gambling Authority
  • Tasmania - Tasmanian Gaming Commission
  • Victoria - Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation
  • Western Australia - Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor

Key Legislation[edit]

Traditionally gambling has been legislated at a state and territory level rather than by the Commonwealth:[14]

  • Australian Capital Territory
    • Betting (ACTTAB Limited) Act 1964
    • Casino Control Act 2006
    • Gaming Machine Act 2004
    • Interactive Gambling Act 1998
    • Lotteries Act 1964
    • Pool Betting Act 1964
    • Race and Sports Bookmaking Act 2001
    • Racing Act 1999
    • Unlawful Gambling
  • New South Wales
    • Betting Tax Act 2001
    • Casino Control Act 1992
    • Charitable Fundraising Act 1991
    • Gambling (Two-Up) Act 1998
    • Gaming and Liquor Administration Act 2007
    • Gaming Machines Act 2001
    • Gaming Machines Tax Act 2001
    • Liquor Act 2007
    • Lotteries and Art Unions Act 1901
    • Public Lotteries Act 1996
    • Racing Administration Act 1998
    • Registered Clubs Act 1976
    • Totalizator Act 1997
    • Unlawful Gambling Act 1998.
  • Northern Territory
    • Gaming Control Act 2005;
    • Gaming Machine Act 2005;
    • Northern Territory Licensing Commission Act 2001;
    • Racing and Betting Act 2004;
    • Soccer Football Pools Act 2004;
    • Totalisator Licensing and Regulation Act 2004; and
    • Unlawful Betting Act 2004.
  • Queensland
    • Brisbane Casino Agreement Act 1992
    • Breakwater Island Casino Agreement Act 1984
    • Cairns Casino Agreement Act 1993
    • Casino Control Act 1982
    • Charitable and Non-Profit Gaming Act 1999
    • Gaming Machine Act 1991
    • Interactive Gambling (Player Protection) Act 1998
    • Jupiters Casino Agreement Act 1983
    • Keno Act 1996
    • Lotteries Act 1997
    • Wagering Act 1998.
  • South Australia
    • Authorised Betting Operations Act 2000
    • Casino Act 1997
    • Gaming Machines Act 1992
    • Lottery and Gaming Act 1936
    • State Lotteries Act 1966
  • Tasmania
    • Gaming Control Act 1993
    • TT-Line Gaming Act 1993
  • Victoria
    • Casino control Act
    • Casino (Management Agreement) Act 1993
    • Gambling Regulation Act 2003.
  • Western Australia
    • Betting Control Act 1954
    • Bookmakers Betting Levy Act 1954
    • Casino (Burswood Island) Agreement Act 1985
    • Casino Control Act 1984
    • Gaming and Betting (Contracts and Securities) Act 1985
    • Gaming and Wagering Commission Act 1987
    • Gaming and Wagering Commission (Continuing Lotteries Levy) Act 2000
    • Racing and Wagering Western Australia Act 2003
    • Racing and Wagering Western Australia Tax Act 2003
    • Racing Restriction Act 2003
    • Racing Bets Levy Act 2009

Online gambling[edit]

The Interactive Gambling Act (2001) was passed by the Australian Commonwealth Parliament on 28 June 2001.[15] It received assent on 11 July 2001[16]

The Act is targeted at online gambling operators such as Sportsbet, making it an offense for them to offer ‘real-money’ online interactive gambling to residents of Australia. It also makes it illegal for online gambling operators to advertise ‘real-money’ interactive gambling services (such as online poker and casino) to Australian citizens.[15] That being said, the amount spent on online gaming by Australians reached some $800 million by 2010, according to the official 2010 Productivity Report of the Australian Government.[2]

Accessing and using the interactive gambling services is not an offence. It is also allowed to companies based in Australia to offer their gambling services to gamblers located outside Australia with the exception of those countries that were called 'designated countries'.[17]

Taxation laws on gambling in Australia[edit]

Gamblers' winnings in Australia are not taxed. There are 3 main reasons for that:

  • Gambling is not considered a profession, it's treated as a hobby or recreational activity.
  • The Australian government views gains from gambling activities not as income, but as a result of good luck. Even if someone wins big, they also lose a lot in other gambling sessions.
  • The government taxes gambling operators instead.[18]

Taxation of gambling operators in Australia differs from state to state and different gambling services are taxed in a different way. There are taxes on the turnover, on player loss and net profit. As gambling operators need to obtain a license to offer their services, certain fees must also be paid at this stage of gambling business development.[19]

Major forms of gambling taxation by gambling type [19]
Forms of taxation Gambling Activity
Turnover tax Bookmakers (racing)
Bookmakers (sports betting)
Totalisator wagering on racing
Lottery subscriptions
Draw card machines
Tax on player loss Totalisator wagering on racing
Sports betting
Poker machines in hotels, clubs, casinos
TAB sports betting
Net profits tax Poker machines
Off-course totalisator investment
Licence Fees Casinos
Poker machines
Sports betting
Minor gambling (bingo, raffles)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bryant, Nick "Australia in thrall of gambling mania", BBC, 30 January 2007
  2. ^ a b Australian Gambling Habits
  3. ^ a b Productivity, Commission. "Productivity Commission Inquiry Report". Australian Government. Retrieved 22 January 2015.  External link in |website= (help)
  4. ^ a b Saulwick, Jacob "Breaking the political addiction to pokies", Sydney Morning Herald, 27 February 2010
  5. ^ Australian Institute of Gambling Research. "Australian Gambling Comparative History and Analysis" (PDF). Victorian Casino and Gaming Authority. Retrieved 29 January 2015. 
  6. ^ Ziolkowski, S. "The World Count of Gaming Machines 2013" (PDF). The Gaming Technologies Association. Retrieved 29 January 2015. 
  7. ^ a b Needham, Kristy. "Punters in west pile money in pokies", "The Sydney Morning Herald", Australia, 23 March 2014. Retrieved on 10 September 2014.
  8. ^ a b c Page, Donna. "Hunter punters blow $8682 a minute on pokies", "Newcastle Herald", Australia, 4 October 2013. Retrieved on 9 September 2014.
  9. ^ a b Page, Donna."How the Hunter gambled $4bn", "Newcastle Herald", Australia, 26 July 2010. Retrieved on 9 September 2014.
  10. ^ a b Markham, Francis. "Who wins big from gambling in Australia". The Conversation. Retrieved 29 January 2015.  External link in |website= (help)
  11. ^ ACNielsen. "Prevalence of Gambling and Problem Gambling in NSW – A Community Survey 2006". NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing. Retrieved 29 January 2015. 
  12. ^ McNally, Caroline. "Gambling in Australia". Central Coast Gambling Help. Retrieved 29 January 2015.  External link in |website= (help)
  13. ^ Parliament Library: Gambling Policy and Regulation
  14. ^ Australian Gambling Statistics, 1986-87 and 2011-12, 29th Edition, 2004, p. 7.
  15. ^ a b Interactive Gambling Act Receives Assent
  16. ^ Interactive Gambling Act 2001: Compilation
  17. ^ Review of the Interactive Gaming Act 2001
  18. ^ Australia’s future tax system - Report to the Treasurer 2009
  19. ^ a b Australian Gaming Council: Gamblng Taxes