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Should Australia Consider Legalizing Online Casinos Instead of Banning Them?

Online casinos aren’t a thing in Australia, as the regulations don’t allow them. That hasn’t stopped offshore gambling sites from embracing Aussies. After all, they’re known for their love of pokies and large gambling losses per adult. Why shouldn’t international brands profit off that clear potential?

The Australian Communications and Media Authority’s (ACMA) main response has been to ban and restrict such casinos. I don’t need to say that the result hasn’t been impressive. New operators appear until they’re banned, too. All this has led me to think if it would’ve been more efficient if the country simply regulated online casinos instead. Let me share my thoughts with you in yet another monthly opinion piece.

The Current Situation Explained

Whenever you visit a site promoting Australian casino sites, you’ll see that the online casino legislation in the country is described as a “gray zone”. In reality, I wouldn’t say it’s that much of a gray zone as much as it is a no zone.

The situation is very simple, in fact.

Online betting is legal if offered by regulated local bookmakers. There’s even an online list for those who want to check for themselves what brands are legit. I went through it and found plenty of popular brands, including bet365 and Betfair.

Online casinos, by contrast, aren’t legal. Targeting Australian players, therefore, isn’t allowed; not to Australian companies, at least.

At this point, anyone would expect Aussies to stick to land-based gambling in legal facilities. Naturally, that’s far from the truth, as Australian players can join hundreds of international gambling sites. Quick research showed me that most of them are licensed in Curacao and Malta. That’s in line with official reports that have been hitting the news in the past.

And I’m not saying that all of these iGaming sites are scams or bad options. On the contrary, many of them are representatives of the best online casinos on the market. Still, when analyzed from the standpoint of an Australian consumer, they’re far from the ideal option.

What happens in a case of dispute or complaint? Do they have appropriate responsible gambling tools in place? How can they perform accurate checks for Australian users if they’re not associated with Australia in any way?

ACMA introduced the National Self-Exclusion Register BetStop recently. Aussies can self-exclude from all betting and gambling services and content within five minutes. It works with national companies only, though.

If you ask me, this is yet another aspect of why regulated online casinos should be the next step in the country. I believe the national regulator is doing its best to stay up to date with ways to protect consumers. As long as online gambling participation grows and happens on offshore sites, however, those measures are virtually useless.

Changes on the Payments Horizon – Not as Effective

I noticed some changes in how online casino payments are being handled by international gambling sites. Moreover, ACMA banned credit card gambling in a move similar to what the UKGC did a few years back in the UK.

I wonder how these changes will affect the iGaming experience of Aussies. Let me elaborate.

POLi has been among the favorite online casino payment methods among Australians. From what I understood reading about it, it works similarly to Trustly. It is an online banking service that makes bank transfers faster and easier.

Yet, the 30th of September 2023 will be the day POLi ceases its business in Australia. While this was a business decision, it surely will affect Aussie gamblers who rely on the service.

As I mentioned, offering credit for gambling or helping Australian-based consumers use payday lending services for gambling has been banned. This step is a reasonable one and prevents overspending. Yet, I’m not sure how it affects international operators that aren’t quite concerned about Australian regulations.

Several days ago, I was working on an article and noticed that the Paysafe range of products – Paysafecard, Skrill, and Neteller – had been removed from casinos targeting Australians. If a site offered them, it didn’t provide them in the AUD, which used to be the case before. I did research but didn’t discover any official statements yet. However, it’s possible that Paysafe is taking PayPal’s path, accepting legal traffic only.

PayID seems to be working still. But I wonder when it will ban all online casino transactions. As a service based in Australia, I think it’s only a matter of time before the ACMA would submit such a request.

With so many services out of the question, you may think Aussies are out of options for funding their international casino accounts. I assure you, that’s not the case. There are still many e-wallets that support AUD transactions for gambling. Let’s not forget cryptocurrencies, which remain a top pick, especially with the rise of top-class crypto casinos.

Once again, I believe restrictions haven’t been as effective as regulators would hope.

ACMA Still Focused on Restrictions

All the news I read regarding ACMA’s work is focused on restrictions.

Everyone knows how the regulator has banned dozens, if not hundreds, of domains by now. Yet, gambling sites aren’t giving up that easily. They come up with new domains, add numbers to their old domains, or redirect traffic from Australia.

My point is even hundreds of bans don’t have the desired outcome.

A few months ago, I also read how ACMA asked Curacao to step up and help its fight against foreign regulators. Since Curacao is still figuring things out itself, I don’t believe that any collaboration between these two will have any immediate effects.

Even if the Curacao Gaming Authority steps up, it seems they would push licensees to have complaint procedures for players from Australia. According to all statements and reports, it doesn’t seem as if the regulator would ask licensees to block access to Australian players.

Once again, it’s clear that ACMA’s actions aren’t preventing Australians from gambling online. If we see any changes, those will come down the road, not right now.

With all of this information in mind, I still think that embracing online casino gambling would be the smartest solution. First, the ACMA would get more control over the industry and services offered. Australians would be able to choose from licensed and approved gambling sites. They’ll also be able to efficiently use all the self-restriction tools in place, including BetStop, when necessary.

I’ve always been a supporter of regulated markets as they also ensure operators are responsible and held accountable for any mishaps.

I hope to see the ACMA introducing new regulations, maybe even a dedicated iGaming regulator. There are so many positive examples to source inspiration from, such as the UK or the Swedish markets.

With legit and legal Australian-based online casinos, Aussies will get the best of all worlds, both service and safety-wise.

This article delivers the thoughts and opinions of the author, and it doesn't represent the stance of GoodLuckMate.

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Milena Petrovska
Milena Petrovska
Last Update: 26 Oct 2023
Milena is second-to-none when it comes to researching, reviewing, and recommending top online casinos. She stops at nothing when it comes to getting all of the facts and figures straight in each of her expert reviews. Plus, having worked as a writer within the iGaming industry since 2014, Milena has seen it all and is familiar with every aspect of online casinos.

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