In 2021, the global gambling industry generated revenue of $465 billion. That figure is expected to rise to $675 billion in 2025. The Australian market is worth around $20 billion per year, a spend of more than $1000 per Australian adult. This represents by far the highest per capita spend of any nation in the world, almost double that of the second place nation, the Republic of Ireland, where the spend is $600 per adult per year.
The rise of online gambling
Like so many other leisure pursuits, gambling has seen a dramatic shift online, especially over the past two years. This is particularly the case in Australia, where the number of online gamblers has increased by 67 percent since 2020.
Most nations, including the US, UK and Canada have adopted regulatory frameworks that take a cautious but progressive approach to online gambling. Online operators are invited to apply for licenses and are subject to specific rules related to advertising practices, betting limits, and promoting safer gambling habits.
Australia’s approach has been different. The Interactive Gambling Act (IGA), which came into law in 2001, completely prohibits Australian operators from providing web-based gambling services in Australia. Back in 2001, that might have made sense, but today it seems largely futile.
As we have already mentioned, Australian online gambling numbers continue to increase. The Gamble Online Australia Casino review site shows there are literally dozens of offshore casino providers that are available to the Australian market. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) continues to focus its efforts on blocking them, but cyberspace has no real concept of geographic borders, and Australian online gambling is a fact of life that is not going to disappear.
Are Australian lawmakers missing the point?
The law as it stands is at odds with the traditionally relaxed attitude that Australia has always had to playing the pokies or betting on the horses. Australia’s lawmakers are worried about problem gambling, and they are right to make this a priority issue. However, the latest parliamentary inquiry is more focused on such issues as “in game” gambling topics like loot boxes and the rise of social casinos.
Some would argue that looking to increase regulation is missing the point and ignoring the real issue with gambling in Australia in 2022. Since the beginning of 2021, the ACMA has instructed the nation’s internet providers to block 300 online casino sites. Yet gamblers either continue to use them via VPN or they simply move to another site, as more appear each day.
European nations including Germany and the Netherlands have recently followed the UK and Canadian model of launching their own online gambling regulatory frameworks. If Australia was to follow the same model, it would be able to control the activities of online gambling providers while reducing the incentive for Australians to use unlicensed offshore alternatives. It would also have the potential to generate millions in tax revenue, something no economy can afford to disregard in these difficult economic times.
Realistically, organized regulation is something that is certain to happen in time. The current system of prohibition is no longer effective or practical. However, legal wheels are slow to move, so for now, we can only watch and wait.