The purpose of this article is to answer the question, "Is it Illegal to play online poker in Australia?".
The short answer is: Australian law does not criminalise playing online poker on your computer or mobile devices and in no way targets the individual poker customer. Online poker is legal in Australia for Aussie citizens.
However, prohibitory legislation has had an impact on the online gambling industry and has contributed to a smaller menu of gaming choices for Aussie poker fans. This is because the laws related to online poker and gambling target the operators and their AU-friendly poker websites, not the consumers who play poker on those sites.
All punishments stipulated in the applicable laws apply only to the corporations running the poker sites and, in some cases, to the executives of these firms. These online poker laws are not intended to and subsequently do not penalize regular citizens who enjoy playing poker online. The authorities probably recognise that they would unleash a vocal backlash against themselves if they attempted to persecute behaviour that millions of citizens engage in on a regular basis and deeply enjoyed by the citizens of Australia.
While this short answer provides a quick set of facts, many Australian citizens will be curious to learn more as evidenced by the frequent emails we recieve with the subject lines of Online Poker Australia. We've decided to examine Australian law in order to provide some guidance as to how the legislative and legal landscape in the country affects internet poker and its practitioners.
With this being said, let us now take a look at the various anti-gambling statutes that have been passed over the years and see how Australian online poker law affects players, companies, and other entities that have a stake in the game.
Interactive Gambling Act (2001)
With the first internet gaming services having only popped up in the late '90s, it understandably took a while for Australian law to catch up. The Interactive Gambling Act of 2001 was the first serious attempt to update gambling laws to take account of this new development. Like many first attempts to accomplish something, it failed to achieve its objectives.
The intent of this legislation was to prohibit unlicensed casino, sportsbook, and poker operators from providing their services to Australian customers over the internet. Because there was no licensing regime for internet casino and poker activities anywhere in the country, these forms of wagering were basically banned at least in theory.
However, loose wording and poor definitions mean that clever lawyers retained by leading online gaming sites were able to run circles around the Interactive Gambling Act. The body tasked with investigating violations, the Australian Broadcasting Authority, had to liaise with police forces to proceed with enforcement actions. This need for bureaucratic multi-agency coordination added further delays and uncertainties to the process, meaning that the Act was, for all intents and purposes, toothless.
Offshore Operations Continue Largely Unimpeded
Given the flaws inherent in the Interactive Gambling Act and the difficulty of initiating prosecutions, offshore real money gaming organisations continued their business endeavours largely without interference from the Australian government.
Online poker in particular experienced a boom especially following Melburnian Joe Hachem's victory in the 2005 World Series of Poker Main Event. PokerStars, PartyPoker, 888poker, and all the other big names in the industry were active in Australia throughout this time.
Only One Conviction Occurred
There was only a single criminal conviction recorded under the terms of the Interactive Gambling Act. In the latter half of 2015, Luke Brabin, a noted Australian poker, started running his own online poker site, called Poker Asia Pacific, which accepted Australian customers. He quite understandably believed that no action would be taken against him given the fact that his international competitors were able to ply their trade unimpeded by the law.
Luke Brabin, Australian Poker Pro and Online Site Founder
Brabin made the mistake of basing his operations on Australian soil, and he was soon prosecuted by the authorities. He pleaded guilty to one count of “intentionally providing an interactive gambling service to customers in Australia,” and in May 2017, Luke Brabin was convicted and had to pay a fine of $10,000.
Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill
As the ineffectiveness of the Interactive Gambling Act became apparent over more than a decade, demand for stronger anti-online gambling provisions began to grow among legislators. In order to remedy what were perceived as defects in the legislation, the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill (IGAB) was introduced into Parliament in November 2016.
This bill modified the wording of the existing Interactive Gambling Act to strengthen it. Many of the ambiguities in the original Act were cleared up, and investigative powers were handed over to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), the successor to the Australian Broadcasting Authority.
The ACMA Is The Principal Enforcement Body for Australian Online Poker Laws
Importantly, the ACMA was given the power to proceed with enforcement largely at its own discretion without having to team up with police departments. It can levy civil fines against lawbreakers on its own initiative. Individuals who were found to be violating the law could receive fines of up to $1.35 million per day while corporations could be fined to the tune of up to $6.75 million per day.
Significant Opposition Mounted
Once the potential consequences of the IGAB became clear, a significant lobbying effort began to try to block its passage. The Australian Online Poker Alliance encouraged members to sign a petition against the bill, which more than 2,500 did, and it also directed poker players to submit their stories to a parliamentary inquiry into the participation of Australians in online poker.
Poker found an ally in the shape of Liberal-Democratic Senator David Leyonhjelm who opposed the legislation. He famously counselled Australian poker players that if the online poker and casino prohibition became law, they should “screw the government, get yourself a VPN for online poker.”
IGAB Becomes Australia Online Poker Law
Despite the efforts of the poker community and Senator Leyonhjelm, the IGAB became the law of the land in August 2017. At around this time, most of the larger internet poker sites decided to stop doing business in the country. The firms that exited Australia included PokerStars, PartyPoker, and 888poker: some of the largest sites in the online poker industry.
Online casinos too were effectively banned by the IGAB, and they began to pull out of the country in droves. Online sports and horse race betting were allowed to continue because there are jurisdictions within Australia that license this kind of wagering, most notably the Northern Territory, but unlicensed offshore sportsbooks are targeted the same way internet poker rooms and casinos are.
ACMA Flexes Its Muscles Using Online Poker Australia Law
The ACMA used its new powers to convince the companies that remained to discontinue their services in Australia. The tactics it employs include the use of cease-and-desist letters, threats of legal action, and partnering with other gambling regulators around the world to try to put pressure on these operators.
The ACMA has achieved quite a bit of success in driving online poker rooms out of the country. The Chico Poker Network, Winning Poker Network, and Intertops are a few examples of gaming corporations that at first ignored the IGAB but later changed their tune and elected to stop serving Australian users.
Questions have been raised in some quarters though about the wisdom of the ACMA's strategy. By driving the larger online gaming firms away from the country, the ACMA has created a space for smaller, less-established, and perhaps shadier organisations to pick up the slack. Thus, the government's entire philosophy against real money internet gaming may turn out to be counterproductive.
Telecommunications Act 1997
One of the strategies employed by the ACMA is to command internet service providers (ISPs) to restrict access to websites belonging to what it classifies as illegal gambling services. Although the authority for doing this comes from the old 1997 Telecommunications Act, this is actually one of the newest arrows in the ACMA's quiver, having only been employed since November 2019.
The Telecommunications Act 1997 creates an obligation on the part of ISPs to “prevent telecommunications networks and facilities from being used in, or in relation to, the commission of offences against the laws…” The ACMA has therefore used its powers to create a blacklist of prohibited web domains, which ISPs must then block. Australians who attempt to access the blocked content instead see a “Stop Page” explaining why the site is blocked and containing a link to the ACMA website.
Stop Page Shown to Those Who Visit Websites on the ACMA's Blacklist
The ACMA began this program of IP blocking modestly with just two domains on its list of proscribed internet gaming sites. However, it has expanded this list significantly in just a couple of years, and it now contains more than 250 sites.
Website Blocking Easily Circumvented
While the ACMA can block various real money gaming-related websites, the owners of these properties often simply move to new web domains. Then there's a delay during which users are able to play like normal until the ACMA catches up with what's going on and adds the new URLs to its list. At that point, the operator can just launch another new web domain and keep repeating this process thereby frustrating the efforts of the ACMA.
Furthermore, savvy computer users have discovered that they can adjust their DNS settings to thwart the ACMA's censorship. By specifying a different set of servers to use instead of their ISPs' defaults, they can proceed directly to the sites they wish to play at without any hindrance from the government.
ACMA Expands Site-Blocking Remit
Though its policy of blocking online gaming websites has proven controversial, this has not stopped the ACMA from expanding its net and trying to interfere with domains that are only tangentially related to the industry.
In August 2021, the ACMA for the first time began adding affiliate sites to its blacklist. These are pages that contain information and signup links to real money gaming providers; they do not themselves operate any gambling services.
Then in August 2022, the ACMA warned a company called Proxous Advanced Solutions Limited. This is a company that licenses software to online casinos although it does not run any such casinos itself.
Not only is the ACMA attacking online gaming sites directly, but it is now going after their vendors and third-party informational websites as well. Regardless of its mission to disrupt what it believes are illegal gambling organisations, its latest actions have raised free speech concerns. What's next? A ban on websites teaching readers how to play blackjack? Censoring “The Theory of Poker?” Perhaps just blocking its sales page on Amazon.
Communications Legislation Amendment (Online Content Services and Other Measures) Bill 2017
One other tack that the ACMA takes to make life tough for online gambling organisations is: promulgating rules restricting advertisements and promotional content. Actually, this applies even to licensed gambling entities, which also have to comply with the edicts of the ACMA in this area.
One of the laws that delegates responsibility for this task to the ACMA is the Communications Legislation Amendment (Online Content Services and Other Measures) Bill of 2017. Among the advertising restrictions policed by the ACMA are rules prohibiting gambling ads between certain hours of the day with fines of up to $300,000 for violations.
Online Poker Australia Tax Law
You might be wondering how the laws treat online poker in Australia for tax purposes. The good news is that you don't have to pay any taxes on your poker winnings unless you are deemed a “professional gambler.”
The bar for being considered a professional gambler is rather high and tends to require more than just deriving most of your income from the game. It appears that people who maintain business relationships related to gambling or who use their gambling careers as mere springboards to other opportunities are more what the Australian Taxation Office has in mind when it talks about professional gamblers.
For 99.9%+ of players, Australia doesn't impose any tax on poker winnings. After Joe Hachem won the WSOP Main Event in 2005 for US $7.5 million he asked for and obtained a private ruling from the Australian Taxation Office that his winnings were tax-free. Unless your poker dealings are of a larger magnitude than Hachem's, you likely need to have no fear of taxes.
Summary of Australian Online Poker Law
The landscape of online poker Australia law has certainly changed significantly for the worse in the past decade or two. Many offshore gaming companies have been dissuaded from offering their services in the country, fearful of possible criminal prosecution and mammoth fines as a consequence of the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016.
This means that you have fewer options as a player, but you can feel totally confident in playing at those sites that do remain available. This is because there's nothing about Australian online poker law that targets individual players. All of the enforcement mechanisms are directed at the people and companies that actually run the sites, not their customers.
You can learn more about the options that remain in The Land Down Under for playing poker over the internet with this page describing the leading Australia-friendly sites in this article about online poker Australia.
Is it illegal to play poker online in Australia? ›
The Interactive Gambling Act 2001 makes it illegal for gambling providers to offer some online services to people in Australia. Banned services include: online casinos.Is it legal to play online poker for real money in Australia? ›
The short answer is: Australian law does not criminalise playing online poker on your computer or mobile devices and in no way targets the individual poker customer. Online poker is legal in Australia for Aussie citizens.Is playing poker in Australia illegal? ›
If poker involving gambling is played outside of a licensed casino, it may constitute an unlawful game under the Criminal Code Act 1899. Unlawful gambling is subject to penalties and can be reported to the appropriate authority. not included in the winnings of the players.Are there any legal online poker sites in Australia? ›
No, there are no government-regulated online poker sites located in Australia. This isn't because major gambling companies believe that it's not worth it to offer their services in the Land Down Under.Why can't I play PokerStars in Australia? ›
As a result of the Australian parliament passing the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill (2016), all real money poker play at our tables has been halted for all players in Australia.When was online poker banned in Australia? ›
It is currently illegal to offer online poker or casino services to Australian under the IGA, although such activity has only been fully enforced since 2016 when the government passed the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill, which substantially increased the penalties and enforcement actions available to ACMA.Do professional poker players pay tax in Australia? ›
Australians are the most prolific gamblers in the world and lose over $24 billion per year gambling. Australia's gambling losses of $1,200 per adult per year are 50% higher than second placed Singapore, and double those in the United States.Is online poker back in Australia? ›
Playing online poker in Australia is 100% legal. And, there are no legal procedures that Australian citizens need to follow before they can start playing poker on the internet. This means that you will face no legal action against you for making payments for the legal casinos in Australia.Can I play PokerStars in Australia with a VPN? ›
Yes, it is legal to use a VPN to play at PokerStars if online poker is allowed in your country. However, keep in mind that VPN usage doesn't make an illegal activity into a legal one.Is online poker legal in Australia 2022? ›
All operators in the country are banned from providing online gambling services. On the other hand, offshore companies are allowed to serve players with casinos and other games.
Why did Australia ban online poker? ›
The 2001 Interactive Gambling Act was intended to make casino games and poker played over the internet illegal to offer to Australians, but the way the law was worded unintentionally created a loophole that companies exploited to be able to successfully operate.Can you legally gamble online in Australia? ›
Is online gambling legal in Australia? Some forms of online gambling are legal in Australia, but others are not. Only licensed gambling providers can legally offer online gambling products in Australia. And some online gambling products are banned.Can online poker sites detect VPN? ›
Yes, it's possible for poker sites to detect VPN usage.
Sometimes, a page might ban all the IP addresses associated with a single VPN. This often happens with free VPNs that are used by a lot of people. Luckily, you can lessen your chances of being caught using a VPN.
As of Jan 1, 2023, PokerStars rooms in New Jersey and Michigan combine their player pools. With PokerStars combining its Michigan and New Jersey poker rooms. the operator has created its first interstate online poker network.Can US citizens play on PokerStars? ›
Can I play on PokerStars from California? No.
|Online Poker Status:||Not Legal|
|Can you play on PokerStars from CA:||No|
|Free PokerStars Play Games:||Available|
Playing poker for real money is not allowed on PokerStars in Australia. You can still access the PokerStars website but only for play money. Poker Site Traffic lists all current real money poker sites operating in Australia and PokerStars is not listed.Where can I play poker in Australia? ›
- Ignition: Best AU poker site overall.
- CoinPoker: Best for crypto online poker games.
- Juicy Stakes: Best for MTT tournaments.
- Ricky Casino: Best for casino poker tables.
- HellSpin: Best for live dealer poker.
- SkyCrown: Best for video poker.
In Australia, lottery winnings are classified as tax-free income. This includes all prizes won through Golden Casket, NSW Lotteries, Tatts, Tatts NT and SA Lotteries. However, once your prize is in a bank account, any interest earned on your prize is subject to income tax for both you and any gift recipients.Do you get taxed on winnings Australia? ›
Prizes may include cash, low-interest or interest-free loans, holidays or cars. However, you don't need to declare prizes won in ordinary lotteries such as lotto draws and raffles. If you win prizes as a game show contestant, you only declare prizes you win if you receive regular appearance fees or game-show winnings.Do tennis players pay tax on prize money in Australia? ›
Taxes In Major Tournaments.
|Tournament||Location||Estimated Tax Rate|
|Roland Garros, ATP 1000 Paris||France||30%|
Will a VPN allow you to gamble online? ›
A VPN also allows you to bypass local censorship and blocks, so you can use gambling sites even in countries that restrict them. And, because your internet traffic is encrypted through the VPN tunnel, your activity will be hidden from your ISP - meaning that you can place bets with complete peace of mind.Where in the US is online poker legal? ›
Currently the only legal markets are in Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Michigan. Online poker went live in Michigan on January 29, 2021.Can you gamble out of state with a VPN? ›
If you are traveling abroad you may find your favorite gambling or sports betting sites are blocked. These blocks can often be bypassed by using a suitable VPN. Unfortunately, many online sports betting sites are geo-locked and accounts cannot be created or accessed from within certain countries or states.Can I use a VPN to play poker in Australia? ›
The Interactive Gambling Act of 2001 prevents Australia-based casinos from offering online poker. However, this law doesn't explicitly forbid Australians from using casinos based overseas. The problem is that many of these are geo-blocked, so you'll need a VPN to access them.What online gambling is legal in Australia? ›
Online gambling in Australia is regulated by the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (the IGA). The IGA makes it an offence to provide certain gambling services to a customer physically present in Australia via the Internet. Exceptions exist for licensed services that provide online wagering, sports betting and lotteries.Can you get in trouble for playing online poker? ›
Online real-money poker play is legal within the borders of states that have specifically legislated it. Online bets between legal states also seem to be valid, as the Department of Justice guidance implies that poker is exempt from the Wire Act of 1961.Will online poker return to Australia? ›
Bad news for Aussies! The Senate has approved the final version of a bill to prohibit online poker from being offered by Australian companies.Is online gambling taxable in Australia? ›
Typically, winnings from gambling are not taxable in Australia, unless the person is a professional gambler, or their gambling activities are a business or conducted in a business-like manner. Gambling income is usually seen by the ATO as non-assessable income and any gambling losses as non-deductible expenses.Can police track VPN Australia? ›
They can ask ISPs to provide all your information, including web searches, media steaming activities, etc. Similarly, when you are using a VPN in Australia, they can still identify that you are connected to a VPN server in Australia. However, they cannot trace what you do online while using a VPN service in Australia.Can you get in trouble for using a VPN to gamble? ›
Using a VPN is one of the safest ways to secure your online traffic from being tracked and hacked and to unblock geo-restricted gambling sites. Using a VPN is perfectly legal, if you're not doing anything illegal that is.
Can PokerStars detect VPN? ›
Yes, there's a slight chance that PokerStars will detect your VPN activity.Is gambling tax free in Australia? ›
The ATO says that taxpayers can exclude betting and gambling wins from their taxable income, “unless you operate a betting or gambling business”. Instead, gambling taxes are generally imposed on the operators, either on the gamblers' losses, their turnover, the profit, or at the point the bet is made.What is the fine for online gambling in Australia? ›
Providing an unlicensed online gambling service to Australians is a crime that can attract a fine of up to $1.1m a day under the Interactive Gambling Act (IGA).What forms of gambling are illegal in Australia? ›
- slots (pokies)
- casino-style games (like poker, blackjack and roulette)
- in-play betting on sporting events.
- betting and lottery services that are not licensed in Australia.
Do online casinos report winnings to the IRS? It depends on if you're playing at licensed US online casinos or offshore casinos AND what games you're playing. Offshore casinos that operate outside of US jurisdiction will not report winnings to the IRS. If you're playing at a state-licensed online casino (ie.What is the penalty for playing poker online? ›
The section goes on to say that anyone doing so is committing a misdemeanor and can be fined between $100 and $1,000 and imprisoned for up to six months. While no players in California have ever faced such penalties for playing on offshore online poker sites, they are, nonetheless, still taking risks by doing so.Do you have to claim online poker winnings? ›
Generally, if the income does not fall within a recognized source, it is beyond the scope of the Act, and therefore not taxable. Gambling winnings, for example, are one key income stream which falls beyond the scope of any source of income. In the U.S.A., however, all gambling winnings are taxable.