Australians are famous for their love of all kinds of gambling. In fact, it is thought that as many as 80% of Aussies regularly bet in some shape or form each year. That may be a spin on the pokies, a punt on Australian Rules footy, or even a spot of table and card game betting. Australia has not exactly opened its doors wide open for gambling, though, so how do Australians go about betting online? On this page, we look at the Australian online casino gaming scene, how Aussies bet online, and where and what they play. Let’s begin…
An Overview of Gambling in Australia
The very first gambling event in Australian history is recorded as having taken place in 1810. Like most gambling activities from the period, it was centred on horse racing. In due time, Aussies would come to bet on Lotteries (seventy years later), with pokies (also slot machines) not appeared in the pubs and clubs down under until the 1950s. To date, wagering in licensed gambling venues is legal in the country.
Australia does have licensed land-based casinos, but when it comes to online casino gambling, you will find that the country is far less open. Each state and territory has its own legislation concerning Australian gambling laws.
Most of the current Australian online gambling laws come from the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001, and its many amendments. The most recent of these passed in September 2017. These laws stipulate that online casino, poker and live betting in the country is illegal. However, wagering at online sportsbooks is very much regulated and legal under the Interactive Gambling Act. There are no specific laws in place for lottery, or bingo games played online.
As you can clearly see, wagering at online casinos in Australia is not considered legal. The Australian gambling authorities do not issue licenses to digital gambling operators. However, the authorities do not make many efforts to prevent Australians from accessing the so-called offshore or foreign casinos, either. This loophole (as it were) sees many citizens frequent those casinos which are based outside of Australia to play, and many of these sites are quite receptive to players in the country.
Online sportsbooks are legal in Australia, and considerably popular with players. The ACMA (the Australian regulator and supervisor) makes sure that these sites are licensed to offer their services to the Australian market legally. Moreover, they ensure that Australian online sportsbooks do not offer players access to slots and other games of chance. Even poker games or those titles deemed to be games of skill are excluded from these Aussie bookies.
Aussies and Their Pokie Machines
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of Australian casinos and where Aussies play online, we should look at the games they play. Naturally, these are offshore or foreign casinos, because, as mentioned, there is no such thing as a licensed Australian online casino. Even so, these sites typically provide Aussies with all their favourite types of games.
The most popular casino game played by Australians is the pokie. Known as slots elsewhere in the world, pokie machines come in many shapes and sizes. They can include 3-reel classic pokies, 5-reel video pokies, progressive jackpot games, and many more besides. Unlike Europe and America, where slots are differentiated between fruit machines and video slots, almost all these types of games in Australia are simply known as pokies.
You may be wondering, why do Australians call slots pokies? Like many Commonwealth countries, Australians use slang as a part of everyday language. Think “barbie” instead of barbecue, or “bevvy” instead of a beverage, “G’day” instead of good day or good morning, and you’ll see exactly what we mean.
The word “pokie” comes from poker machine, as video poker games were amongst the first electronic games to be seen in the country. When slots also became electronic in the late 1970s, the word was adapted to include video slots, too. Players in New Zealand are also known to call slot games, pokies.
In terms of real money gameplay, there is no difference between pokies and slots games. They are one and the same. If you were to visit an internet casino facing the Australian market, it is a fair bet that virtually all slot games featuring at the site would be called pokies. Australians may or may not differentiate between different types of slots. You might see classic pokies, jackpot pokies, or mobile pokies. However, in many cases, all will be lumped together.
The Best Pokies at Australian Casinos
Online Pokies are by far the most popular games you can play at Australian casino sites. They come in many variants, and some types of games suit certain players more than others. As mentioned, some Australian casinos break down their pokies into easy to manage genres, and some don’t. However, you will still typically find all the following games at a bona fide Aussie casino:
3-Reel Pokies: The most basic form of pokie machine you can find at Australian casinos. These typically feature three reels and very few paylines. They seldom offer special features, and many contain classic imagery such as bars, bells, fruit and sevens on their reels.
5-Reel Pokies: More advanced pokies; they serve up five reels and often contain many paylines. These games will adopt a theme and have thematic imagery on their reels. Don’t be surprised to see grander jackpot prizes in these games than in three-reel pokies, and they usually come packing a variety of special features, too.
Jackpot Pokies: Jackpot pokies differ from generic video pokies in that they have an uncapped jackpot. This means that it rises with each wager, and some can reach colossal heights. Once won, the jackpot will reset to a default level. This differs from standard video pokies, which have a non-progressive or fixed jackpot which can always be won.
Mobile Pokies: In most cases, mobile pokies are merely video pokie machines, albeit ones which are designed in a manner which makes them mobile-friendly for users on iOS (Apple) and Android-powered smartphones and tablets. Mobile-friendliness typically means big and bold buttons to aid players to finger and thumb action.
There are a few special types of pokies you can sometimes find online at Aussie casinos. Not all sites will carry them, but if you find one which does, it is worth giving them a run for their money. They include:
Cluster Pays Pokies: These games do not feature paylines. Instead, these pokies pay out prizes when players group together clusters of symbols on the reels. Many offer a collapsing reels system. This means that following a win, the winning icons disappear and are replaced by new ones. This gives you the chance to win several times with a single stake. A multiplier may or may not be included with each win you chain together in this manner.
MegaWays Pokies: Some pokie games contain a MegaWays engine. This revolutionary gaming engine sees a random number of paylines (potentially up to 117,649) appear on each spin. MegaWays pokies also prosper from the same collapsing reels and multiplier system as Cluster Pays slot, but they are more highly volatile than their simpler counterparts.
Most top Australian video pokies come with special features, as mentioned.
The array of features you can expect to find include:
Wild Symbols: These act as substitute symbols (or jokers in a deck of cards) and can replace all standard paying icons. Some Aussie pokies may also see these symbols expand to cover whole reels, appear stacked to cover some, show up at random, provide multipliers and a good deal of other things.
Scatter Symbols: Scatters count anywhere in a pokie and will often pay out cash prizes worth your total bet. They may even trigger bonus rounds, which we’ll look at in a moment.
Bonus Symbols: These symbols do not offer cash prizes but can trigger bonus rounds when they appear on the screen, often in special locations.
The best pokies Australia has to offer will contain bonus rounds. There are many possible features in games for Aussies to come across, but these three tend to be the most common ones…
Free Spin Bonus: Players will get to spin the reels for free, and potentially pocket added perks such as a multiplier, additional wilds and more.
Click and Win Round: Aussies can select from a series of icons and symbols to win cash prizes or other goodies.
Instant Win Bonus: These can consist of anything and everything. The nature of these rounds can change from pokie to pokie. Sometimes what you do determines your prize, and at other times, everything is simply down to chance.
We’ll end our look at Australian pokie games with a final word on jackpot prizes. Jackpot pokies can pay out their prizes in several ways. They might require Aussies to land jackpot paying icons on a specific paylines. They could decide to pay out prizes via bonus rounds, such as money wheels. Some Australian pokies pay out their jackpots at random. A few will even share out jackpots between the casino’s community when they are won. The nature of how a pokie jackpot prize is paid out differs from game to game.
Other Games You Can Play at Australian Online Casinos
Pokie machines aren’t all that Australian online casinos have to offer. Many other popular games include traditional casino classics, games of both skill and chance. Baccarat, blackjack and roulette are popular in Australia, but so too, are numerous table poker games, and video poker machines. Craps also has a large following in Australia, and can regularly be found at Australian casinos, although in lesser number than other table games.
Under Australian gambling law, live betting is not permitted. This doesn’t just include sports, but also casino games. However, these offshore casinos have no qualms about offering Australians access to live dealer casino titles. These games can consist of all your favourite casino table games and are played with a real-to-life human dealer over an internet video stream. Many of these games you can find at Australian casinos can be played using the Australian dollar, and are mobile-friendly, to boot.
Taxes on Big Wins at Australian Casinos
Whatever you decide to play, you might be wondering if you’re going to end up paying a chunk of it to the taxman? This is particularly worrying if you end up pocketing a multi-million-dollar progressive prize on a top pokie.
If you were living in the United States, you could kiss goodbye to a chunk of your winnings. However, in many Commonwealth countries such as Australia, you needn’t worry. Winnings acquired via gambling games are not deemed an income down under. They are considered good fortune or luck. Like Britain, Australia doesn’t set a limit on what counts as a big win. All winnings, no matter their size or value, are tax-free.
Moreover, it doesn’t matter if you decide to play in a land-based Australian gambling venue, which is legal, or an offshore casino which technically isn’t. Nor does it matter whether you win on pokies, table games, sports betting, bingo or lottery games. The same rule applies. Whatever you win playing is yours to keep, with no strings (or tax) attached. However, any interest you earn from the winnings as they sit in your bank is liable for tax, but that is true of all interest earned in bank accounts.
The Best Australian Online Casinos to Join Today
We’ve looked at whether Aussies can gamble, and what they can gamble on. We’ve also gone over the tax situation regarding winnings. Now, though, we need to look at where Australians place their bets.
As mentioned, sports betting online is legal in Australia, so if that is your forte, you can do that. However, these sites are not permitted to offer casino games. If you want to play casino games such as pokies online, you will need to head to an offshore or foreign casino. Note that these sites may still be called Australian casinos, as there is no such thing as an Australian licensed online casino site.
These types of Australian casinos stand out for several reasons. Firstly, the sites will accept players who reside in Australian. Secondly, the Australian dollar will be one of the currencies that they accept.
As well as accepting Australian dollars, these offshore Australian casinos will also provide support which is accessible for Australian players. This will most likely be available via live chat, telephone and e-mail.
Promotions and bonuses can commonly be claimed at Australian online casinos.
It is not uncommon to find a variety of top promotions for Aussies to snap up, and these can include:
Welcome Bonuses: Most Australian online casinos will serve up a welcome bonus to players. This may be just a single offer or span several deposits. They usually consist of free cash, sometimes worth up to $100 or more and are provided when you deposit.
Re-Deposit Bonuses: Aussie casinos may continue to offer player bonus bucks when they deposit into their accounts.
Free Spins Bonuses: It is not uncommon to see free spin promotions or Game of the Week deals at Aussie casino sites.
Loyalty Promotions: Loyalty promotions might include free spins, cash bonuses and more. They are typically offered when you receive new tiers of a loyalty program. Players can often earn points by wagering on pokies and casino games. Those points can be used to reach those new rungs on the loyalty ladder and can commonly be used to “buy” bonuses.
Daily/Weekly/Monthly Promos: Australian casinos may run promotions on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. These time-based offers don’t tend to last long, so you should always check out the latest offers at a casino to stay abreast of the situation.
Tournament and Competitions: Many top Aussie sites offer tournaments and competitions. They could include slot tournaments whereby players earn points when they bet, with the top finishing players earning cash and spins. They may also include prize-draws, where randomly drawn players win prizes which could consist of gizmos and gadgets.
VIP Clubs: Aussie casinos often contain VIP clubs, too. Usually open by invitation only, these top rungs of the loyalty program promise faster cashouts, higher withdrawal limits, and much more besides.
Players should also keep an eye out for a few other things at leading Australian casinos. The very best of them will be well-licensed and secure. The licensing jurisdiction where they are licensed should be one which regulates the casinos, too. Top authorities include Malta and the United Kingdom. Leading Aussie casinos will also promote responsible gambling.
Finally, any leading Australian casino should carry a good range of games. This means titles from many providers, not just one. The types of games that those developers bring to the table should vary, and span both free to play and real money pokies. Many of these games should be playable on your phones and tablets. It is not uncommon to see the best Australian online casinos offer either a dedicated mobile casino app or instant play (browser-based) mobile gaming options to their players.
Any Australian online casino which fulfils most (if not all) of the criteria above is easily one of the best places to play your favourite games down under.