Resources and Links to Information about Pokies Laws
Are pokies legal in Australia?
The answer, of course, is that it depends. I’m not a lawyer, barrister, or a solicitor, so any legal advice I provide is for informational and/or entertainment purposes only. In fact, on subject as potentially touchy as the legality of gambling and pokies, I prefer to curate links to other pages which offer such information.
This Wikipedia article provides a reasonably good general overview. “The laws regulating the use of gaming machines in Australia are a matter for State governments, and as such they vary between States.” Wikipedia also presents general information about the taxation of gambling winnings in the country. Since gambling is not considered a professional activity, winnings aren’t considered earned income. The government works from the theory that good luck shouldn’t be taxed. They also work from the assumption that gambling operators pay taxes so that players shouldn’t have to.
Wikipedia also features an overview of the main Australian law pertaining to online gambling, the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001. This law makes it illegal for Internet operators to offer real money gambling to Australian players. It does NOT make it illegal for Australian players to play Internet pokies games for moneys, just for the casinos to offer those games. The Australian Government also offers a detailed overview of this law, along with a list of links to updates. The Australian Parliament also offers a similar page. This page about gambling versus lotteries in Australia is also useful.
Real Money Action provides a wealth of information about the industry and its legalities. I’ve found other sites offering similar pages, but the Real Money Action page is the best one because of the low-key use of advertising and the list of citations. You shouldn’t have to scroll past a list of 10 Internet casino advertisements in order to read an article, and pages which don’t provide any information about where they got their information are less trustworthy.
In actual practice, there have been no enforcement activities related to the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001. Lotteries and sports betting are outside the purview of this legislation, too. (Pokies, like any other casino game and “instant win scratch off tickets [scratchies], are within the scope of this Act. In fact, sports betting is completely legal as long it’s associated with a corresponding brick and mortar book.
This PDF offers an overview of the various gambling industries in Australia. It’s a product of the government’s Productivity Commission. It examines gambling in general and pokies in particular from the perspective of how it affects society and the economy.
This PDF, from the same source, also provide some data regarding the legal minimum payout percentage for pokies in casinos. The standard is different for pokies in clubs and pubs versus those in casinos. A gambling machine in a pub has a minimum payout percentage of 85%, while in a casino, the minimum payout percentage is 90%. (These numbers are specific to the state of Queensland, but other states also have provisions regarding the minimum legal payout percentage.)
ABC was reporting in 2013 that tougher gambling laws were on the horizon, especially as they relate to pokies. The assumed goal was to reduce problem gambling. You can find lots of news articles about various propositions about toughening up gambling laws in Australia on sites like SBS, The Australian, and The Mercury. The Age, The Daily Telegraph, and INDaily also provide such coverage.
The Australian government also has its own site about problem gambling, which is a huge social and economic problem for the entire country. The site describes the impact gambling (including pokies) has on society, a fact sheet, and resources for families affected by gambling problems.
Gambling Authorities in Each State
Each state in Australia has a corresponding government authority which oversees the legality of gambling there. Each of these authorities has a website, as follows:
- The ACT Gambling and Racing Commission for the Australian Capital Territory.
- The Office of Liquor, Gaming, and Racing for New South Wales.
- The Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority, also for New South Wales.
- The NT Licensing Commission for the Northern Territory.
- The Office of Liquor, Gaming, and Racing for Queensland.
- The Independent Gambling Authority for South Australia.
- The Consumer and Business Services site, also for South Australia.
- The Tasmanian Gaming Commission for Tasmania.
- The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation for Victoria.
- The Department of Racing, Gaming, and Liquor for Western Australia.
It’s legal to play pokies in Australia, either online or off. In fact, the Australian government doesn’t even tax winnings from pokies. But it is illegal to offer online casino games for real money, so any casino you’re dealing with on the Internet is, in fact, in violation of the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001. The Australian government has done nothing to enforce these restrictions, though, which causes one to ask, is an activity really illegal if there’s no danger of enforcement?
Most people visiting this page want to know if it’s legal to play. The short answer is yes, it is legal to play pokies for real money on the Internet in Australia. That’s not my legal opinion, but it’s a reasonable conclusion to draw from the dozens of sources referred to on this page. Whether or not it’s a good idea to play pokies for real money on the Internet is a question better left to my readers to answer. The answer will change depending on the individual reader. Take responsibility for your own behaviour, and don’t gamble if you have impulse control problems.