Online gambling - frequently asked questions
- Is my gambling service or gambling product prohibited by the IGA?
- How is online gambling requlated?
- How are lotteries requlated?
- How is wagering requlated?
- How do you define a 'sporting event'?
- Is footy tipping affected?
- Is telephone betting included?
- Are charity operated gambling services affected?
- What if gambling operators abuse the exemptions?
- Isn't gambling a State and Territory responsibility?
- Are networked computer games banned when they are played for money or prizes?
- Are television games and promotions like the internet voting on Australian Idol or registering to be a contestant banned?
- Does the IGA cancel out State and Territory legislation?
- Does the exemption for online lotteries affect small business?
- Have poker machine jackpots and Club Keno been banned?
- Can I gamble in an internet cafe?
- How can an interactive gambling operator reasonably be expected to differentiate customers located in Australia from customers located outside Australia?
- How do I make a complaint about an interactive gambling service?
- Is the advertising of interactive gambling banned?
- Can I put a link on my personal website to an interactive gambling service?
- Do internet service providers have to block offshore sites?
- Are there any 'designated countries' (in addition to Australia) where it is prohibited for Australian gambling operators to provide interactive gambling services?
- What is the Government doing about problem gambling?
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. Officers of the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy can only explain the policy intent of the IGA. They cannot provide legal advice.
The main offence provision of the IGA (clause 15: the offence of 'providing an interactive gambling service to customers in Australia') applies to the providers of interactive gambling services, rather than users. It is not an offence under the IGA for a person to access an interactive gambling service. However, the IGA does not override the laws of other jurisdictions, such as Australian States and Territories and other countries.
Under section 8D of the IGA, most forms of lotteries are exempt from the prohibition. Even when offered on the internet, traditional lottery products such as jackpot lotteries and weekly Lotto draws are unlikely to pose a risk to problem gamblers. Such products are not banned by the IGA. Only rapid or player initiated online lotteries such as online scratchies are banned by the legislation. These products present a greater risk to problem gamblers. The IGA also provides for the Minister to prohibit 'highly repetitive or frequently drawn forms of keno-type lotteries or similar lotteries,' should these become a problem.
The IGA intends to balance the impact of online wagering, against the impact of a ban on long established industries in Australia, such as the thoroughbred racing industry. This balance is sought by prohibiting 'ball by ball' betting-or wagering on any aspect of a sporting event after it has commenced. 'Betting on the run' is also prohibited because it involves betting on a sporting event after it has commenced. These types of betting are the most harmful form of online wagering. Other forms of online wagering are not prohibited by the legislation. Online wagering on non-sporting events is not prohibited by the IGA. See discussion and examples relating to section 8A of the IGA in the explanatory memorandum (PDF, 205.5 KB).
'Sporting event' is not specifically defined in the IGA, and therefore takes its ordinary meaning. The explanatory memorandum (PDF, 205.5 KB) provides guidance and examples (see discussion of section 8A(2)). For example, a tennis match is a sporting event. An individual point, game or set in a tennis match is not a sporting event, but is a part or an aspect of a sporting event. A tennis tournament is also not a sporting event, but rather a series of sporting events. In other words, it is prohibited to provide a service to persons in Australia for online betting on any aspect of a tennis match after that match has commenced. However, it is not prohibited to bet on the match before it has commenced, or to bet on the tournament either before or after the tournament has commenced. Online wagering on a non-sporting event is permitted before or after the event has commenced. See discussion and examples relating to section 8A of the IGA in the explanatory memorandum (PDF, 205.5 KB).
In general, no. Office or private tipping competitions conducted by email or internet on a non-commercial basis (and similar activities) are not intended to be prohibited by the IGA. Such competitions are generally not provided in the course of 'carrying on a business in Australia', which is an element of the offence of providing an interactive gambling service to customers in Australia (clause 15). Even if they are provided on a commercial basis, such services generally do not allow betting on a sporting event after it has commenced, and would hence qualify for the wagering exemption (section 8A).
Telephone betting services are exempt from the prohibition. A 'telephone betting service' is defined in clause 4 as 'a gambling service provided on the basis that dealings with customers are wholly by way of voice calls made using a standard telephone service.' Telephone betting has long standing in the Australian community and is not intended to be prohibited.
No. Because of their not-for-profit status, charitable gambling services such as art unions and raffles are generally regarded as not being provided 'in the course of carrying on a business in Australia,' which is an element of the offence of providing an interactive gambling service to customers in Australia (clause 15). Online gambling services provided by registered charities are not intended to be prohibited by the IGA. However, State and Territory regulation of such services still applies.
The IGA provides for the Minister to place conditions on certain exemptions by regulation in order to prevent abuse and circumvention of the intent of the IGA. The Minister can place conditions on the following exemptions:
- the lotteries exemption (section 8D(1A))
- the wagering exemption (section 8A(1A))
- the excluded gaming service exemption (section 8B(1A)), and
- the television games exemption (section 8C(1B)).
Section 51(v) of the Australian Constitution gives the Commonwealth responsibility for 'postal, telegraphic, telephonic, and other like services.' This head of power is the basis for Commonwealth regulation of communications services, including broadcasting, telecommunications and the internet. The Commonwealth hence has the power to regulate interactive gambling because it utilises communications services. The Constitution does not give the Commonwealth specific powers over offline gambling. The regulation of offline gambling therefore remains primarily a State and Territory responsibility.
No. A gambling service is defined in clause 4 of the IGA to include 'a game of chance or of mixed chance and skill.' This definition is derived from State and Territory legislation and is well established in law. Computer games regarded as games of predominantly skill. They therefore do not fall within the definition of 'gambling service' in the IGA, even where there is consideration to play and prizes. The explanatory memorandum (PDF, 205.5 KB) provides guidance and examples on this matter (see discussion of clause 4 and section 8C).
Are television games and promotions like the internet voting on 'Australian Idol' or registering to be a contestant banned?
No. Under section 8C of the IGA, gambling services with a designated broadcasting or datacasting link are exempt from the prohibition. This means that promotions run in close association with television programs are not prohibited. The explanatory memorandum (PDF, 205.5 KB) provides guidance and examples on this matter (see discussion of section 8C).
Section 69 provides that the IGA is 'not intended to exclude or limit the operation of a law of a State or Territory to the extent that that law is capable of operating concurrently' with the IGA. In other words, a service that is exempt under the Commonwealth Interactive Gambling Act 2001 is not necessarily exempt from State or Territory law. Conversely, a service may be prohibited under the Commonwealth Act, even if it is licensed or authorised under State or Territory law.
Most online lottery services are exempt from the IGA. Even when offered on the internet, traditional lottery products such as jackpot lotteries and weekly Lotto draws are unlikely to pose a risk to problem gamblers. Only rapid or player-initiated online lotteries such as online scratch tickets are prohibited. Like casino gaming, these products present a greater risk to problem gamblers.
Section 8B of the IGA provides for excluded gaming services. Where a service is 'provided to customers in a public place' it is generally exempt from the prohibition. Clubs and pubs are such public places. This exemption was included to eliminate unintended consequences with respect to traditional forms of gambling which may utilise communications services, such as linked jackpot poker machines and Club Keno games. Regulation of these services remains primarily a State and Territory responsibility.
An interactive gambling service provided to customers in an internet cafe would potentially qualify for the 'excluded gaming service' exemption, which exempts interactive gambling services provided to customers who are in a public place (section 8B). However, all States and Territories have strict laws about places in which gambling services can be provided. An exemption from the Commonwealth IGA does not prevent the operation of State and Territory regulation. The explanatory memorandum (PDF, 205.5 KB) provides guidance and examples on this matter (see discussion of section 8B).
How can an interactive gambling operator reasonably be expected to differentiate customers located in Australia from customers located outside Australia?
Clause 15 of the IGA provides for a defence of 'reasonable diligence' to the offence of providing an interactive gambling service to customers in Australia. In other words, an interactive gambling service provider facing a charge under the main offence provision of the IGA would have to demonstrate that it put in place reasonable measures to prevent Australian customers from accessing its services. Various technologies and methods exist for ascertaining the physical location of a customer of a service on the internet. These range from advanced geographical location software to a requirement that customers prove their identity and location offline before the service is provided.
There is recognition that none of these methods is failsafe. The IGA does not mandate any particular technology or method for interactive gambling service providers to use. Instead, it describes various elements that a court could take into account in assessing a defence of reasonable diligence.
These matters include:
- 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.
The explanatory memorandum (PDF, 205.5 KB) provides guidance and examples on this matter (see discussion of 15(4)).
The IGA provides for a complaints process which is administered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). Complaints are to be made in writing and may be lodged using ACMA's online complaints form.
More information on making complaints is available.
Yes. Part 7A of the IGA bans the publication or broadcast of an interactive gambling advertisement. This means that it is prohibited to advertise interactive gambling services on broadcast media such as free-to-air television and radio, in print media such as magazines and newspapers, and on billboards. Advertising on internet services aimed at an Australian audience is also banned. This means that websites designed for a specifically Australian audience will not be able to carry interactive gambling advertisements.
There are various exceptions including political advertising, incidental or accidental advertising, and advertising in imported print publications or websites that are not aimed specifically at an Australian audience. Internet service providers are generally protected by the Criminal Code from liability for third party content that is innocently transmitted over their networks. In other words, an Internet service provider or other third party can only be guilty of the offence if it knowingly or recklessly transmits the advertisement.
This is provided for not by the IGA itself, but by section 5.6 of the Criminal Code, which now applies to most Commonwealth legislation with criminal offences. The advertising ban in Part 7A of the IGA is broadly based on the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act 1992.
Yes, but only under certain conditions. Clause 61EE of the IGA provides that publication of an interactive gambling advertisement is permitted where the person publishing the link:
- is not doing so in the course of providing interactive gambling services
- is doing so on his or her own initiative, and
- is not receiving any direct or indirect benefit, whether financial or not, for the publication.
The IGA does not mandate any technology or method to be used by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in relation to prohibited Internet gambling services. Under Parts 3 to 7 of the IGA, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) administers a complaints system to deal with prohibited internet gambling services. Under this system, Australian residents will be able to make complaints about internet gambling services. If ACMA upholds a complaint, it then notifies ISPs of the prohibited service in accordance with the requirements of the Interactive Gambling Industry Code. Following notification, ISPs must provide their customers with one of the approved filters listed in Schedule 1 of the Code.
Are there any 'designated countries' (in addition to Australia) where it is prohibited for Australian gambling operators to provide interactive gambling services?
There are as yet no countries designated under section 15A of the IGA. In order to be designated, a foreign government must:
- make a request to the Minister for such a declaration, and
- have legislation that mirrors the provisions of section 15 of the IGA, that is, that prohibits the provision of interactive gambling services.
There are several national initiatives available which provide counselling and/or assessment and referrals for problem gamblers. These include:
- a single national website, www.gamblinghelponline.org.au, with online counselling for problem gamblers; and
- a single national toll-free number, 1800 858 858, for telephone counselling.
Problem gambling is an issue the Government takes seriously and the effectiveness of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 will be monitored in the face of new developments.