Online vs. offline gambling in Australia, this is the question. Or more accurately perhaps it might be: Is there a difference between the two in terms of legality in Australia? What about accessibility? Is there a general local preference for one over the other? And can’t you enjoy them both? Yes, yes, no and yes once more. They are governed by slightly different laws, there are definitely differences in terms of accessibility, they are probably both equally loved by the people, and indeed they can both be enjoyed in turn. But of course there’s more to it than that. Let’s explain.
Australian gambling history on one leg
As you likely know, gambling is a popular pastime here in Australia. In fact, Australia is by many counts the country that gambles the most. That is 80% of our population reports placing bets of some kind throughout the year. We’re not sure what it is about the Australian character that makes us love gambling so much (a different article to determine that perhaps), but so it is. We love gambling Down Under. Pokies are a particularly beloved preference with an incredible 4% of adults reporting that they engage in pokies play once a week, and some 20-40% of people playing pokies annually.
Where and when exactly this great love affair began is not entirely clear. The experts say we’ve been gambling in one form or another for centuries now. The European settlers who first came here brought with them casino games like blackjack and roulette, whose popularity quickly spread, long before the first casino came around. Pokies machines officially made their first appearance here in 1956, when they were legalised by the government of New South Wales, though only for use in registered clubs. In 1973, casinos themselves were legalised, with the first Australian casino making its home in Tasmania. After that, the pokies craze took hold, and today Australia has one of the highest number of poker machines per capita, at a recent count of one machine per 114 people!
Current laws in terms of gambling offline and online in Australia
As a whole, gambling is legal in Australia. This includes a whole host of gambling activities including horse betting, lotteries, sports betting parlours, and casinos. All of these activities are regulated by the Australian government. As such, all casinos must be granted a license in order to operate. Pokies themselves are legal, but only within a casino framework or at bars and similar such venues with valid gambling licensing. And if you were wondering, none of the winnings from these activities are taxed. That’s because gambling is officially considered a hobby rather than a form of income here.
Online gambling specifically is covered by what is known as the Interactive Gambling Act. It was created by the Australian government in 2001 as a way to protect the public from what were seen as potentially negative effects on locals caused by excessive and unregulated gambling online. According to this law, it is illegal for an online gambling operator to operate in Australia, and for Australians to use such a gambling site. However, if the online casino is based overseas, Australians are free to access it lawfully. There are other nuances within the law, but for you the player, what is important to know is that you can play away without legal fear.
So in a nutshell, to summarise the question regarding differences between the legality of online and offline gambling in Australia, there really aren’t any at the end of the day. Both types of gambling are totally legal here, so long as the establishment you’re playing at is lawful and licensed.
The accessibility difference between offline gambling in Australia and online casinos
In Australia, there are many place where you can play pokies games offline. These include bars, hotel lobbies, and other similar venues. There are also a good number of licensed casinos in Australia. There’s the Star Casino in Sydney, the Casino Canberra in our capital, and the Crown Casino in Melbourne to name but a few. In fact, there are so many casinos of different tastes and styles, Australia has grown to become a rather popular casino vacation destination, for locals and tourists alike.
That being said, since Australia is such a big country, it’s quite possible you don’t live all that close to a casino. In fact, for many of us, a casino visit could be a considerable car ride away. Plus, even if you were up for the drive, perhaps you don’t feel like getting dressed up, or even talking to people. Sometimes you want to play, here and now, without any investment or effort on your part.
This is what makes online casinos so appealing to Australians, and pretty much everyone around the world. You can access an online casino from any place at any time. All you need is an internet connection and a computer or mobile device like a tablet or smartphone. In other words, while land-based casinos are very accessible to Australians (and we’re thankful for that), online casinos are even more accessible. Either way, however, you will have to prove you are over 18 in order to play.
Reasons Australian prefer online gambling over offline gambling (and vice versa)
While where to gamble is a matter of taste, here are a few main reasons why many Australian players would say online casinos make for a better choice:
- Open all day, every day – Operating 24/7 every single day of the year, Christmas, Easter, rain, sleet or shine, online casinos never ever close their virtual doors. With online casinos, you set your gaming timeframe, not the other way around. This makes them great for people from all walks of life, no matter what your schedule or line of work.
- No drive or bus ride required – Visiting an online casino requires zero commute. That means no traffic to sit in, no bus route to figure out, and no wait to get you there. In fact, you don’t even need to get up from your seat to play. If you’re at your computer, just browse on over to your favourite casino website or do a Google search to find something new. If you’re out and about, your gaming options are just as good, as you can play from your mobile phone. Even lying in bed you’re just few click away from your favourite games! You can’t beat that.
- No big commitment – This one is twofold. If you decide to play at one casino site, and feel like moving on, it’s no big deal. Another online casino is just a few clicks away. Also, since most online casinos let you deposit small sums as low as $10 to $20 AUD, you can easily have a good time gambling without committing too much time or money in one go.
- Free play in fun mode – There is no such thing as a free lunch many a wise person would say, and certainly no free games at a land-based casino. It’s all about real money gambling there. Any self-respecting online casino, however, will let you play all of its games in free mode. This is basically a marketing tactic to let you try new games (and eventually bet real money), or practice new game types like roulette until you get comfortable. Either way, it’s another great benefit of online casinos in Australia.
- More pokies machines – Without a doubt, an online casino will have more pokies machines than any land-based casino you’d visit. Often hundreds more. This makes sense since an offline casino is paying for expensive floor space, while an online casino can inexpensively add an endless number of pokies to its offering.
- No waiting to gain VIP status and get comped – While some swanky casinos comp all players with drinks and snacks to keep them at the games, it’s only once you’ve reached a recognised high roller status that they bring out the good stuff and treat you accordingly. All online casinos, however, immediately comp you for coming through their virtual doors with an automatic welcome bonus, no matter who you are. Of course the amount differs between online casinos, but it is something you should absolutely expect. Just make a deposit and it’s yours.
- No dress code – And finally you can wear what you want. That means you can visit an online casino in your work clothes or gym clothes. Even pyjamas work equally well. Heck you can play in your swimwear lounging poolside if that’s what you really want.
On the flip side, there are certainly many reasons why one would opt to play at a land-based casino. Among them are:
- The social factor – Many people love the excitement of casino life. And understandably so! There are people milling around, drinks being served, tension and adrenaline are in the air. While pokies are usually a more solitary affair, many enjoy the crowds that gather around the roulette wheel or craps table. In fact, this social aspect of cheering and high fives, plus free rounds after a win, is to some casino gamblers, as good as a win itself.
- Live service – Again, the live factor has its inherent advantages in the service realm as well. For example, in a game like blackjack, it can be nice to sit at the table with the dealer (and tip him if you win). Same goes for the croupier at the roulette wheel. A little eye contact goes a long way. Even if an online casino has amazing customer support and offers live casino games, it’s just not the same as playing in person when you’re after the interactive edge.
- Better odds – This one isn’t across the board, but if odds are something that motivates you, know that some offline casinos will offer better odds on table games to draw players from competing casinos nearby.
- A true getaway – While gambling can be fun anywhere, sometimes you just want to get away and take a gambling vacation – even if it’s just for the evening. While we like the fact that online casinos let us laze around in our comfy clothes, there are days when it’s more appealing to get dressed up, go out, and have a few drinks outside of our everyday life.
Types of casino games you’ll find at an offline casino and an online casino
All of those reasons for wanting to play at one establishment over another are great. But at the heart of the casino is its games, so perhaps this realm should be weighed most.
In general, you will find the same basic casino games at both types of casinos. Offline casinos will often focus more heavily on table and card games as they are the more social formats. Online casinos for their part tend to promote pokies more extensively as pokies are their biggest offering and largest appeal. In line with this thought, a game like craps which is very popular in offline casinos is often lacking at online casinos, or buried within its offering. Scratch cards, however, can be found at online casinos, but not at offline casinos as far as we know.
As for the game play itself, as a whole, it is fairly similar. The online versions are designed to replicate as much as possible the experience of offline play. That means for pokies, there’s a ‘Spin’ button to get the reels moving, a screen tap to deal cards in blackjack, and similar such functionality for roulette and other games.
Overall, it’s safe to say, the types of games you’ll find at offline and online casinos are quite similar, with each casino choosing to focus on different game types as it sees fit.
The type of casino gambling you should choose
The type of casino gambling you should choose is not a zero sum game. That means it is not an either or question. From our experience, it is actually preferable to choose both. Think about it like this: You can read a newspaper on Sunday on your sofa and your favourite online news source from your phone that very same day, right? Both give you pleasure in different ways. Same goes for casinos.
There is a distinct thrill in visiting an Australian casino, live and in person. It’s an outing full of adventure and adrenaline. A special thing to do every now and then. But in between, visiting an online casino is a great way to enjoy some gambling as well. Sure it’s not as social, but it’s definitely more convenient, which is a huge advantage in our books. You just open the internet and you’re there. So instead of choosing we simply say, try them both. Online gambling and offline gambling are equally good options for us lucky folks here in Australia.