Australians have always been avid players with online casinos, credit betting, poker, and in-play sports betting seemingly the favorite options in the continental state.
On the flip side, the Turnbull Government has been watching keenly and battling to maintain sanity in the industry.
In general, Australia hasn’t expressly banned online Bitcoin betting but it’s mandatory for all service providers to apply for a license from the all-powerful ACMA (Australian Communications & Media authority)- whether onshore or offshore.
More noteworthy is the recent passage in parliament of new legislation banning the provision of keno betting services and online lotteries to Australian customers.
Also, all the Gambling ministers have in the recent past agreed to pursue stronger online betting protections.
However, it’s difficult to get the full position as in the territories, some control is left in the hands of regional authorities.
The Overall Outlook
Gambling is controlled principally by the ACMA assisted by several territorial gaming commissions/departments such as the Northern Territory Racing Commission/body (NTRC), ACT Gambling and Racing Commission, Victorian Commission for Liquor & Gambling Regulation amongst others.
Positively, the regulator(s) always consults the online wagering industry representatives, academia, sporting bodies, the financial and community sectors, Australian broadcasters and even individuals when crafting and enforcing established laws.
Through their combined long-term concerted efforts, Australia has a conducive national gambling framework which includes measures to promote individual online gamblers and access to relevant betting information.
So, interested players can easily access details about online casinos accepting the Bitcoin such as the TheBitcoin.Casino.
The Laws as They Stand
The Government’s response to gambling is driven by the need to establish a robust, best-practice, and consistent national gambling consumer protection framework for online betting in Australia.
This led to the passage and subsequent royal assent for the Interactive Gambling Amendments Act 2017 (the IGAA) which effectively came into force on September 13, 2017.
The IGAA is a Game Changer
After a period of little to no monitoring, the Commonwealth government realized that illegal offshore wagering could pose serious challenges to Australians, chief among them very low protection. That was way back in 2015 when Bitcoin was still in its nascent stages in the country and when many were not aware of its advanced security mechanisms such as the almost foolproof 2-factor authentication.
The state also felt that sports and racing integrity was at risk as a result of limited access to online betting information. It’s on this background, therefore, that the Review of Offshore Wagering was commissioned on September 7, 2015 with a brief to dig deep into the original Interactive Gambling Act of 2001 and make recommendations.
Led by the Honourable Barry O’Farrell, the review consulted widely within the state, territory governments, community support services, industry, scholars, government departments, and individuals before settling on the final version. The most dramatic change was the outlawing of many forms of online wagering despite the lack of clarity on what will happen to Bitcoin betting in the long run.
This, in effect, has meant that the residents continue to enjoy unrestricted access to various websites with the ISPs under no obligation to block IPs.
The Online Gambling Industry at Large
Online Bitcoin betting companies have gone from strength to strength in Australia powered by increased interest from the residents. Players and providers agree that the review has been good for the industry as it led to soaring publicity in addition to the implementation of improved vetting procedures for offshore providers entering the market. Thankfully, all the leading internet gambling sites including Joe Fortune have had no problems with the requisite compliance.
But it hasn’t been all straight in all the regions. For example, JustBet, a Bitcoin sports betting website ‘masquerading’ as Australian has been investigated by the ACMA after a complaint by the Tasmanian independent MP Hon Andrew Wilkie (ABC news broke this story about the scheme).
Hon Andrew Wilkie
This has led to some controversy with legal expert’s claiming that IGAA seems to ban interactive online gambling services provided without licensing by the Australian state or a territorial regulator. This came hot on the heels of an announcement by the Northern Territory & Racing Commission (NTRC) that it would no longer allow gamblers registered in its controlled area to accept Bitcoin bets.
Though informal, such pronouncements show that there’s still work to be done.
The good news is that a website like Cloudbet is performing extremely well in the country and has been hailed as among most impressive online casinos for Bitcoin sports betting.
How Do the Laws Affect Players?
The national framework actually favors bettors and seems to accord special care to their interests. If you read it, you will notice that it intends to fortify all forms of internet-based wagering services against infiltration by criminal elements so as to guarantee a safe betting environment for everyone.
Since the repeal, only committed online casinos have been coming into the Australian space. These include the Stake.com internet casino which enjoys a massive following thanks to its exclusive games and its free Bitcoin faucet. In any case, what the country has done is in line with international best practices and will, in the end, make online wagering fun and lucrative despite the initial teething problems.
What does The Future Hold?
So far, the Government has successfully rolled out stage one of the IGAA act with gambling providers being forced to adapt. It is also well known that the ACMA has sweeping powers to enforce the law fully and among the possible outcomes for violators are punitive civil penalties. Also in the pipeline are more disruptive measures to curb illicit offshore gambling such as placing the affected company’s directors on the dreaded movement alert list.
Prime Minister Turnbull
The feasibility of some additional deterrents including forcing ISPs to restrict IP addresses of unlicensed sites and banning of Bitcoin payments is currently being assessed with a position statement expected before the turn of the year. It is, therefore, safe to say that there is a very fair likelihood that more checks will be take shape as time passes, as evidenced by the gambling ministers agreeing to stronger online wagering protections.
It’s also safe to remain optimistic as, so far, the limitations have not affected players themselves in a fundamental way and have actually enhanced the protection of stakeholders from illegal gambling sites.
ACMA has even gone out of its way to publish a list of licensed bitcoin gambling sites just to ensure that gamers do not fall for money laundering and other criminal activities. Yes, we can never be 100% sure but at least for now, matters are a bit stable with no threats foreseen in the immediate future provided one pays taxes on any capital gains on the Bitcoin.
The commonwealth state of Australia has been very proactive in ensuring sanity in the online Bitcoin industry with the review of the old interactive gambling act of 2001 bringing the regulations necessary for roaring play. The passage of the amendments to the 2001 interactive gambling laws was a major milestone and the ACMA has been busy as have been the territorial authorities but it has been largely a case of so far, so good.
The state’s new legislations that will definitely have an impact on online lottery and betting services in Australia but it’s expected that the concerned parties will come up with mitigation measures.
And even though there are some uncertainties about the full implication of the new laws across the territory, it’s noteworthy that licensed online Bitcoin casinos are allowed to operate within the realms of the existing framework. And for many gamblers, this is all they care about!