What can Australia learn from the UK in online gambling regulation?

Australia, meanwhile, is growing a billion-dollar industry and managing an international reach that is expected to pick-up again following the border reopening plan this summer. The country’s success is no surprise, as Australians are some of the most active gamblers in the world, with over 80% of adults participating in gambling of some kind. But despite giving to a market that is making billions, Australian gamblers and operators are largely left vulnerable by a lack of regulation, missing out on opportunities that the UK has skillfully cornered.

An Established Industry

Part of the regard for the UK as a gambling marketplace and hub for operators is the country’s place on the frontline of gaming software development, tech adaptation, and business strategy. Some of the real strengths they have that the other up-and-comers within the industry, like Australia, have yet to adopt are regulation and adaptability. 

A Year in Review

This past year the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) increased fines issued to operators by more than 50% compared to the 2018-19 fiscal year, emphasizing warnings about not taking advantage of players during the lockdown. Some penalties were handed out to the tune of £30m, and UKGC CEO Neil McArthur warned online operators that the “tighter measures to protect consumers during lockdown” that were enacted during the first lockdown are still in effect. 

All of this just before the UKGC prepares for the review of the Gambling Act of 2005 to increase restrictions on credit card usage for gambling, among other provisions. Some operators and critics say that the regulations are too harsh, but the penalties and rules protect gamblers from an unfair power balance and contribute fines to greater causes. Just last year a combined £27m was collected in settlements from regulations, and in 2019 fines on three online casinos netted £8.7m. Many of these fines are for offenses like money laundering, and in 2020 the UK put aside £9m of those fines for charities that work with vulnerable players.

In the Dark

Comparatively, the Australian online market struggles to use regulation laws to protect its players. Land-based casinos are the majority of the law under the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001, making it illegal for off-shore and local operators to host most forms of online gambling offerings for Australians. Unfortunately, that doesn’t deter online sites from doing exactly that, and since the Australian government doesn’t have the time or the money to pursue every operator who violates the IGA, it’s up to the gamblers to sort out for themselves which sites are trustworthy. 

Gamblers are often not prepared to personally go after online operators who take advantage of them, and those sites will continue to operate unless the government updates its outdated laws to provide the legislation with some enforcing power. Whether they legalize all forms of online gambling or not, doing nothing is leaving Australian gamblers vulnerable. 

Modern Solutions

The UK isn’t the only country that Australia could stand to learn from as online gambling becomes more prevalent. The United States has repealed and instituted a series of laws in recent years that enable states to create their own legislation regarding sportsbook betting and online gambling. Now states are moving to enact new laws to deal with the booming popularity of online casinos. 

Get With The Times

According to Global Betting and Gaming Consultants, online gambling was the fastest-growing trend in Australian betting in 2018. The most popular games for Australians online are casino games, with pokies leading the way

Australian lawmakers ignoring the popularity of online gambling are missing out on billions of dollars in revenue going to off-shore sites. They could even be stunting the growth of important sectors–like technology and business–in their economies. Local operators may realize the missed opportunities and choose more lucrative markets, or they may just opt to fly under the radar of Australia’s ineffective IGA law. Either way, it’s time for Australian gambling regulation to see some change.

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