The Interactive Gambling Act 2001
The Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (IGA) regulates interactive gambling services by placing restrictions on certain services being provided to customers in Australia. The IGA aims to limit the harmful effects of gambling on the Australian community.
The Explanatory Memorandum provides detailed discussion, definitions and examples in relation to each clause of the IGA. As a summary of the IGA, it is provided for information only and does not constitute legal advice. If you are in any doubt at all about how the IGA may apply to you or your organisation, you are strongly encouraged to seek independent legal advice.
The IGA targets the providers of interactive gambling services, not their potential or actual customers. The IGA makes it an offence to provide an interactive gambling service to a customer physically present in Australia.
- This offence applies to all interactive gambling service providers, whether based in Australia or offshore, whether Australian or foreign owned.
- This offence carries a maximum penalty of $220 000 per day for individuals and $1.1 million per day for bodies corporate.
Interactive gambling services include those that are often described as 'online casinos' and usually involve using the internet to play games of chance, or games of mixed chance and skill. Examples include roulette, poker, craps, online 'pokies' and blackjack. 'Interactive gambling services' are defined in section 5 of the IGA.
The IGA also makes it an offence to provide such services to people in a 'designated country'. This offence is discussed in more detail below.
Reasonable diligence by interactive gambling service providers
The offence will not apply if an interactive gambling service provider did not know and could not, with reasonable diligence, have ascertained that its service had Australian customers. Therefore, interactive gambling service providers that can show they have exercised reasonable diligence in ensuring that Australian customers are prevented from using their service will have a defence against the offence provision. The IGA provides that elements of a reasonable diligence defence can include, for example:
- whether prospective customers were informed that Australian law prohibits the provision of the service to customers who are physically present in Australia
- whether customers were required to enter into contracts that were subject to an express condition that the customer was not to use the service if the customer was physically present in Australia
- whether the person required customers to provide personal details and, if so, whether those details suggested that the customer was not physically present in Australia
- whether the person has network data that indicates that customers were physically present outside Australia when the relevant customer account was opened and throughout the period when the service was provided to the customer, and
- any other relevant matters.
Online wagering is not an offence under the IGA, except where wagers are accepted online after a sporting event has started, or use real-time, 'ball by ball' betting. Therefore, for example, an online bet on a particular tennis match can be accepted during a tennis tournament but not after that particular match has started. In this example, it is prohibited to place an online bet during a tennis match as to whether the next serve will be an ace.
Online wagering on a non-sporting event, before or after it has started, is exempt. Telephone betting via a standard voice call is exempt from the IGA.
Online lotteries and the online sale of lottery tickets are not prohibited by the IGA.
The exception is for online instant and scratch lotteries, which in practice are virtually indistinguishable from other online, player-initiated games. The Minister has the discretion under section 10 of the IGA to make future regulations to ban highly repetitive or frequently drawn forms of keno-type lottery or similar types of lottery that are provided to customers using interactive communications networks or media.
Public place exemption
Where gambling services are provided in a public place, such as a licensed pub, club or casino, they are not prohibited by the IGA. This exemption applies to services such as linked jackpot poker machines in clubs.
The IGA makes it an offence to publish or broadcast in Australia an advertisement for an interactive gambling service. The prohibition extends to all forms of media, both electronic and non-electronic, including advertising via the internet, broadcast services, print media, billboards and hoardings, subject to certain exceptions.
- These exceptions include political communication, incidental or accidental advertising, products or services having the same name as an interactive gambling service or anti-gambling advertisements.
- A number of gambling services are excluded from the definition of an 'interactive gambling service'for example, excluded wagering and excluded lottery services. The advertising ban does not apply to such excluded services.
- The prohibition does not extend to advertisements published in overseas media, such as magazines that are published overseas, or websites that are aimed at non-Australian audiences.
The IGA currently makes it an offence to provide interactive gambling services to people in Australia. The Minister has the ability under the IGA to widen the offence by also prohibiting the provision of such services to people in a 'designated country'. However, a foreign country cannot become a 'designated country' unless:
- the government of that country has requested a designation under the IGA from the Minister, and
- there is legislation in force in that country that corresponds to the main offence provision of the IGA.
No foreign countries are designated under this provision to date.
The IGA provides for a complaint process that is administered by the Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA) ) and the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. For information on how to make a complaint about prohibited internet gambling content, see the internet gambling page on the ACMA website.
Regulations relating to unenforceability of agreements
Section 69A of the IGA provides the Minister with the capacity to develop regulations relating to financial agreements involving illegal interactive gambling services. The regulations may provide:
- that an agreement has no effect to the extent to which it provides for the payment of money for the supply of an illegal interactive gambling service and
- that civil proceedings do not lie against a person to recover money alleged to have been won from, or paid in connection with, an illegal gambling service.
To date no such regulations exist.
2004 review of the Operation of the IGA
A Review of the Operation of the IGA (published in 2004) concluded that the IGA had curtailed the development of the Australian interactive gambling industry and was associated with the minimal use of internet gaming services by Australians.
It found that the IGA has proven largely successful in meeting its policy objectives of minimising the potential expansion of interactive gambling that may exacerbate problem gambling in Australia. The review found no substantive evidence to support amendment or repeal of the IGA on the basis that the legislative framework is ineffective in preventing access to interactive gambling services.
More information on the process is available on the Review of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 archival pages.
Productivity Commission Inquiry into Gambling
On 23 June 2010 the government tabled the 2010 Productivity Commission Inquiry Report on Gambling.
The report contained 48 recommendations, including in relation to online gambling.
Review of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001
The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy has undertaken a review of the IGA. For further information, please see the Review of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 page.