At a glance, an online pokies enthusiast in Australia might find the laws regarding such matters to be a bit confusing. On the whole, internet gambling was deemed illegal by the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001. It’s illegal for online pokie sites to offer their services to Aussie’s, whether that operator is located in Australia or in any other location. However, the website of the Queensland Government clearly states that Australian’s are not prohibited from using online gambling services.
How could that be? Online gambling is illegal in Australia, but it’s not illegal to gamble online? I know, it’s all very strange, but then again, so many things are Down Under. And that’s just the laws of playing online pokies. There are some pretty strict limitations placed upon the use of land-based poker machines, depending on what region of the continent you’re playing in. To give you a better understanding, we’ll take a look at the laws and policies concerning pokies in Australia, by territory.
Australian Capital Territory
The gaming sector of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) is regulated by the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission. Poker machines are permitted in casinos, as well as hotels, pubs and clubs that are licensed by the regulatory body. The ACT Gambling and Racing Commission currently supplies licenses to 65 gaming locations throughout the entire region. All poker machines are required to abide by the laws of the Gaming Machine Act 2004, which mandates a maximum of $10 per wager and minimum 87% payout percentage.
New South Wales
New South Wales (NSW) was the very first state in Australia to legalize poker machines, declaring in 1956 that they would be permitted in all registered clubs. In 2012, it was reported that more than 1,550 registered clubs house poker machines in NSW, maintaining approximately 60,000 gaming machines and accounting for $12 billion in revenue each year. All gaming activities are overseen by the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing, which imposes its national standard for payout percentages on pokies at only 85%. The max wager is $10/spin.
In the Northern Territory (NT), poker machines are permitted in the region’s two casinos, Skycity Darwin and Lasseters Hotel Casino in Alice Springs, and community venues according to the Gaming Machine Act. There are well over 4,600 pubs, taverns and hospitality clubs operating gaming machines in NT, and while genuine casino establishments are required to set their payouts at 88% or above, community venues are only required to accommodate a minimum 85% payout rate. However, the maximum wager per play is reduced to $5. All operators must be registered with the NT Licensing Commission, which requires machines to be obtained from and installed by approved, licensed manufacturers and contractors.
Queensland is home to over 1,200 casinos and community gaming venues (pubs, clubs and hotels), all registered with the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation. The laws of poker machines are a little different, depending on where you play. At casinos, the minimum payout percentage is 87%, with no specified maximum payout or max wager per spin. In pubs, clubs and hotels, the minimum payout percentage is reduced to 85% with a max of 92% and $5 max wagers.
Gaming activities in South Australia are controlled by the Independent Gambling Authority. Poker machines have been legal in casinos, clubs and hotels since the mid-1990’s, and there are thousands upon thousands of pokies throughout the region, but that will change very soon as the SA is enacting tougher pokie laws. The current laws provide for an 87.5% payout percentage in casinos as well as community venues, with a max bet of $10. The payout% will remain the same, but the max bet is being reduced to $5 and establishments will no longer be permitted to house more than 60 poker machines at major venues, or 20 at minor venues. SA also intends to reduce its number of statewide pokies by at least 3,000. The new laws were passed in 2013 and are scheduled for staggered enforcement between 2014 and 2017.
The Tasmanian Gaming Commission is responsible for regulating all poker machines on the island state of Tasmania. There are nearly 300 licensed venues operating just over 3,500 poker machines in the area, including major and minor gaming license holders. Hotels are restricted to no more than 30 pokies on the premises, clubs 40. The minimum payout percentage is set at the national standard, 85%.
More than 400 casinos and community gaming venues speckle the map of Victoria, Australia, overseen by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation. All venues, including commercial casinos, are required to set at least an 87.5% payout percentage on their pokies. The state passed a law in 2007 that prohibits gaming machines that accept $100 notes and auto-play. However, there was one exception to the law which permits Crown Casino to allow members with VIP loyalty cards to insert $100 notes and use the auto-play feature.
Western Australia has the strictest laws regarding the legality of pokies. They are only authorized for play at a single location, the Burswood Casino just outside of Perth, which is home to 2,000 electronic gaming machines. Pokies are prohibited in all other locations –pubs, clubs, hotels, etc. Furthermore, the casino is obligated to set all payout percentages at no less than 90%, although there is no specified maximum wager allowed.