Betting online and gambling laws

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One of the most regulated practices across the world is gambling, and as more avenues to betting become available, more laws surrounding the activity are being introduced. This page details the rules and regulations of real money betting in some of the countries where casino, sport and other gambling practices are most popular. We focus chiefly on online forms of wagering (interactive), but touch on land-based gambling, too.

Australians online betting laws

Australia is widely considered the gambling country of the world, with more than 80 per cent of adults engaging in some type of gambling – the highest rate across the globe.

Australia owns close to 200,000 land-based pokies (a figure which accounts for over 20 per cent of the world’s slot machines), is home to the largest brick and mortar casino complex in the Southern Hemisphere (Crown), hosts prestigious gambling events like The Aussie Millions Poker Championship and The Melbourne Cup, and permits residents to wager on countless local and international sporting events.

While the Australian Commonwealth Parliament does take an active role in presiding over the gambling industry, the specifics within the industry is largely regulated at an Australian state and territory level, by the respective state and territory gaming authorities. Only those 18 years and older can participate in gambling activities (offline and online).

The Interactive Gambling Act (IGA) of 2001 is the key legal document determining what is and is not allowed in terms of real money betting over the Net. The Act targets online gambling operators and makes it an offence for companies to advertise or offer any real money ‘interactive’ gambling services to Australian residents.

However, the term ‘interactive’ does not have a concrete definition, and is defined according to the views and agendas of the law makers. The following forms of online betting (also known as iGambling) are legal and illegal, according to the IGA:

Forms of iGambling which can be advertised and offered to the public:

  • Sports betting through registered and licensed online bookmakers.
  • State and nationally based lotteries, through licensed online lottery distributors.

Forms of iGambling which can not be advertised and offered to the public:

  • Online casino games, such as blackjack, roulette, baccarat, progressive jackpot and traditional pokies, video poker, instant scratch cards, craps and other titles.
  • Online competitive poker games, like Texas Hold’em and Omaha cash games and tournaments offered at sites such as 888Poker, PokerStars and FullTiltPoker.
  • Sports betting on live events (games/matches which have already commenced, an also known as ‘in-play’ wagering). Placing a live bet over the phone is permitted. Most licensed bookmakers in Australia, via their mobile sites and apps, have also implemented a ‘click to call’ option, where punters can place live wagers via their phones: select the bet, access the ‘click to call’ feature, wait until you are connected to the automated live betting system, and then tap the ‘confirm’ option to finalise. This ‘legal loophole’ demonstrates just how unsound the ‘interactive’ regulations are.

Despite the prohibitions, many licensed gaming operators which operate outside of Australian borders, continue to offer Australian residents fair and quality ‘interactive’ services, and there has never been a serious attempt by the Australian government to thwart these operators. As an Australian resident, you cannot be punished for utilising the real money interactive services.

Interactive gambling regulations in America

America’s gambling laws are the messiest of all nations, largely because each state government has the right to regulate the activity however it sees fit to do so. This means there are some states where all gambling is legal, where it is completely illegal, and where some forms of betting are permitted while others are disallowed.

Land based gambling is permitted under U.S.A federal law, and when you include state-based real money lotteries, then almost every state in North America allows some type of wagering. The legal betting age ranges from 18 to 21, depending on the state.

There are more than 1,700 gambling facilities across the United States of America, including casinos, horse racecourses, dog tracks and resorts, with Nevada, Montana, Delaware, Oregon, Oklahoma, New Jersey (Atlantic City) and California the most well known states to host such attractions.

Online gambling is a whole other ball game in the U.S. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) is the main legislative document to have had any genuine affect on real money Internet gambling. Passed in 2006, this Act claimed the following was illegal of gambling businesses:

“To knowingly accept payments in connection with the participation of another person in a bet or wager that involves the use of the Internet is unlawful under any federal state or law.”

The Act made it unlawful for Web betting sites (sports, casino, poker, etcetera), to accept real cash deposits from patrons inside the United States, while banks and other financial institutions were also prohibited from processing these transactions.

Following the passing of this Act, a large amount of gambling operators were forced to stop servicing the American market, and many residents also stopped betting online for fear of prosecution. However, the law did not officially make it illegal to place real money bets over the Net, and there are many trusted operators which still offer their services to U.S. customers today.

Additionally, there are other methods to deposit and withdraw money from gaming sites, such as using pre paid cards and e-wallets – reliable mediums which can disguise the nature of transactions, and which are available to U.S. betting operators and their clientele. Also, Web gaming organisations operating from legal gambling jurisdictions and offering their products to Americans often argue they are not subject to the U.S. Internet gaming laws.

What is most important to note if you are an American citizen or temporary U.S. resident keen to gamble online, is any laws which impose certain restrictions on Internet betting, if ever enacted, would be used to punish the operator, and never to prosecute the user of the services of said operator; although the UIGEA seems to be largely ineffective for and unenforceable on offshore businesses.

Legalities of real money Internet gaming in Canada

Canada boasts many land based casinos (more than 100), several government approved sports betting outlets, horse racetracks, bingo halls, video slot machines, ticket lotteries, and other gambling facilities across the country.

Gambling services are regulated at a province and territory level, so rules can differ depending on where you are betting. For example, in Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec, the legal gambling age is 18, while you must be 19 or older to gamble for real money elsewhere.

The online Canadian gambling rules are relatively liberal – for citizens, enjoying sports betting and casino games betting via the Internet with real cash is a completely legal practice, so long as you are of age. Individual provinces/territories inside Canada also have the right to control gambling activities hosted on the Net inside their own borders, and there are local governments which do operate licensed online gambling sites and outlets.

Companies which are not licensed by the Canadian government (foreign organisations) are technically prohibited from marketing their gaming services to Canadian citizens, however, no charges have ever been laid on offshore operators which continue to advertise and offer their products and games to Canadians.

Additionally, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission (a gaming regulatory authority which approves and licenses many online and some land based gambling operators), runs from inside Canadian borders. The Kahnawake region is considered a sovereign nation and is not governed by Canadian laws.

Canadian casino sites have been approved by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, while it also has granted licenses to more than 50 foreign gaming operators which conduct their business from legal gambling jurisdictions, and which can be legally accessed by Canadian players.

What are the gambling laws in Europe?

Europe is one of the more advanced regions in terms of gambling regulations – there are close to 1,200 brick and mortar casinos across Western and Eastern Europe. Other forms of betting also exist, including horse and dog racing, sports betting, lotteries and more.

There is no collective legislation that regulates the entire gambling industry within Europe, and all countries and their respective governments are able to freely pass and be responsible for their own laws concerning Internet gambling – a well-regulated industry inside European borders.

Across many major countries, including the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, Italy and France, online gambling is strictly monitored to allow for a fair and competitive market – and the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) is the chief governing agency which works to maintain a safe environment for iGambling.

Important gambling jurisdictions which hand out licenses to Internet gaming operators wishing to legally market their services to European customers include:

  • The U.K. Gambling Commission
  • The Alderney Gambling Control Commission
  • The Gibraltar Gambling Commission
  • The Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission
  • The Malta Gaming Authority

Licensed sites offering casino games, Internet poker rooms, and sports and horse racing betting are lawfully accessible to European residents (18 years and older) across multiple countries. Europe remains one of the gambling industry’s largest markets, and the liberal regulations concerning real money Web gaming has allowed for several local bodies to be established and ensure the continuation of a safely managed business.

Is betting legal in New Zealand?

New Zealand, like it neighbouring country Australia, regulates gambling and has in place an Act (Gambling Act of 2003) which denotes what is and what is not legal, in terms of Internet betting. Gambling operations are controlled by the Department of Internal Affairs. You must be 20 years of age to enter and play at any casino in NZ. The legal age for all other forms of gambling, including sports betting, is 18.

There are six land based casinos across New Zealand, and they are:

  • The Dunedin Casino
  • Christchurch Casino
  • SKYCITY Auckland
  • SKYCITY Hamilton
  • SKYCITY Queenstown
  • SKYCITY Wharf Casino

Pokies are also housed in hotels and bars, horse racing and sports betting is popular via the TAB (and online bookmakers, however such operators are technically in violation of New Zealand law – explained below), and lotteries are governed by the New Zealand Lotteries Commission.

The NZ online gambling laws are straight forward:

Online casinos, online sports wagering, online poker games and other Internet gambling services are not permitted to be offered to residents of New Zealand. However, this rule only applies to local companies, and offshore gaming operators are able to market their services to citizens without any repercussions, and there are several trusted sites which successfully do just that.

Does India allow real money wagering?

India has more restrictive regulations surrounding gambling and online betting than other nations, however the activity still takes place, and the gambling market has been reported to be measured at approximately $60 billion USD per year (of which approximately half is reported to be accumulated from illegal wagers). You must be 21 years or older to gamble in India.

It is up to each individual state within India to legislate gambling and introduce policies relating to betting, and currently, Goa (which boasts cruise ship casinos), Daman and Sikkim are the only three states to permit land based casinos. And while betting on horse racing, the lottery and the game of rummy have been made lawful practices within several states, almost all other forms of gaming have been deemed illegal, according to the Public Gambling Act (PGA) of 1867 and the Information Technology Act (ITA) of 2000.

The PGA is the central law which deals with the legalities of betting, even though it is well over 145 years old. And it is not that clear, either. It has been explained that the Act does not condemn games of skill but rather chance, although state lotteries (pure luck) have been approved by the Lotteries Regulation Act of 1998 (quite contradictory).

Sikkim is already offering licensed online wagering in the form of lotteries, and has plans in place for Internet sports betting and casino gaming, demonstrating a significant progress in the reformation of India’s gaming rules. However, Maharashtra is one country to completely outlaw gaming on the Web with real cash, while the national government has deemed that sections within both the PGA and ITA documents put a case forward for the prohibition of hosting a gambling site on Indian servers.

Having said that, the laws cannot adequately control legal offshore operators (such as William Hill, Bet365 and Betfair), which continue to market services to Indian residents with little troubles. The Indian Premier League is a sporting event which hundreds of thousands of Indians bet on through online bookmakers hosted outside of the country. No law makes it an official offence for Indians to gamble online, aside from those implemented in Maharashtra, and foreign operators see this country as a major contributor to the iGambling (also referred to as eGaming) world in the future.

China’s gambling rules

While real money gambling is technically illegal in China (according to the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China), the entire nation’s betting industry ranks number one in the world for overall gambling revenue (on a gambling by country basis). State based lottery games are regulated, while sports betting, keno games, scratch cards and slot machines are all permitted.

Most notably, Western-style casinos in Macau are a booming industry. In 2007, the city surpassed the Las Vegas Strip in revenues collected from gambling, and in 2013, revenues exceeded $13 billion USD. Mah jong, pai gow and keno are games which originated in China.

Additionally, there are two legal lottery agencies in China: the China Welfare Lottery and the China Sports Lottery. The China Sports Lottery deals exclusively with sports betting, and licenses some Chinese bookmakers to offer such services to Chinese customers, under strict guidelines.

It are the unsanctioned online gaming sites which the government attempts to thwart from operating inside China’s borders, however we are unaware of any cases where foreign gaming businesses which successfully market their products to Chinese citizens have come under fire. The government can block the websites, however there are still ways to access websites which accept the Yuan (CNY), which many residents do (and are highly unlikely to be prosecuted).

The Internet gaming industry has claimed, on multiple occasions, that gambling in China is an activity that will continue to progress at a rapid rate, and the government has the option to keep more money for itself, through tax and licensing fees, by putting in place a stronger regulatory systems which allow for local registered companies to provide better wagering services to the Chinese public.

Gambling is a constantly evolving industry, and rules and laws surrounding the practice must constantly adapt with the progressive nature of what has become a highly popular activity. Thus, government policies on betting services are always in motion, and while this page attempts to reflect those changes as accurately as possible, there may be some information which has been left out. If you believe any details to be inaccurate, do not hesitate to let us know.