Interactive Gambling Act reforms | ACMA

Interactive Gambling Act reforms

The Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (IGA) regulates the provision of interactive gambling services in Australia. This page provides information about:

  • key reforms to interactive gambling regulation

  • overview of the reformed IGA

  • Interactive Gambling Industry Code.

Key reforms to interactive gambling regulation

On 9 August 2017, amendments to the IGA were passed by the Australian parliament. The amendments received Royal Assent on 16 August 2017 and the majority came into effect on 13 September 2017.

The IGA amendments are part of the government’s key reforms to combat illegal offshore gambling. They are intended to reduce the provision of illegal online gambling services to Australians through stronger enforcement and disruption measures, and they will be complemented by nationally consistent consumer protections. Together, these measures aim to protect Australians in the online gambling market.

The IGA reforms include:

  • amending the law to make it clear that it is illegal for gambling companies to provide certain gambling services to Australians unless the person or company holds a licence under the law of an Australian state or territory

  • empowering the ACMA with new tools for compliance and enforcement, including civil penalties, to complement existing criminal offence provisions, and making the ACMA responsible for the entire complaints-handling process from receipt to enforcement

  • introducing other disruption measures to curb illegal offshore gambling activity, such as referring company directors or principals of offending gambling companies to Australian border protection agencies for inclusion on the Movement Alert List, so any travel to Australia can be disrupted

  • clarifying that ‘click-to-call’ in-play betting services are prohibited and that place-based betting services are not prohibited

  • introducing a prohibition on certain wagering operators offering lines of credit to Australians or facilitating the provision of lines of credit via third parties such as ‘payday’ lenders.

The ‘credit-related’ prohibitions will come into effect in February 2018.

National Consumer Protection Framework

The National Consumer Protection Framework is intended to help empower individual gamblers to minimise problem gambling. It will include a national self-exclusion register for online wagering, a voluntary opt-out pre-commitment scheme for online wagering and a prohibition on lines of credit betting offered by wagering providers, together with other measures.

The government has also invested in research into online wagering restrictions and their impact on consumers’ behaviour.

Overview of the reformed IGA

The IGA prohibits five activities:

  • providing prohibited interactive gambling services to customers in Australia

  • providing an Australian-based interactive gambling service to customers in designated countries (to date, no countries have been designated by the minister)

  • providing an unlicensed regulated interactive gambling service to customers in Australia

  • broadcasting or publishing advertisements for these prohibited interactive gambling services or unlicensed regulated interactive gambling services in Australia

  • providing or facilitating the provision of credit to customers by certain wagering service providers.

The ACMA may, on our own initiative, or in response to a complaint, investigate whether a person has contravened a provision of the IGA. A complaint may be made to the ACMA under section 16 of the IGA.

Prohibited interactive gambling services

Examples of prohibited interactive gambling services include online casino-style games, online slot machines and online wagering services that accept in-play bets on sports events.

A ‘prohibited interactive gambling service’ is defined in section 5 of the IGA as a gambling service where:

  1. the service is provided in the course of carrying on a business; and
  2. the service is provided to customers using any of the following:
      (i) an internet carriage service 
      (ii) any other listed carriage service
      (iii) a broadcasting service
      (iv) any other content service
       (v) a datacasting service.

There are a number of exclusions, notably regulated interactive gambling services like telephone betting services and wagering services.

Regulated interactive gambling services

‘Regulated interactive gambling service’ is defined in section 8E of the IGA. Essentially, it includes those services that are excluded from the definition of a prohibited interactive gambling service, and includes telephone betting services and online wagering services (other than those offering in-play betting).

These services cannot be provided to customers in Australia without a licence granted by an Australian state or territory licensing authority.

Register of licensed wagering services

The ACMA has published a register of eligible regulated interactive gambling services—those interactive wagering services who are licensed in Australia. Its purpose is to help those people who choose to gamble to avoid using illegal offshore services. On-course bookmakers are included on the register where they provide interactive wagering services.

An eligible regulated interactive gambling service is defined in section 68 of the IGA as a regulated interactive gambling service that:

  1. is covered by paragraph (a) or (b) of the definition of gambling service in section 4 of the IGA; and

  2. is not provided in contravention of subsection 15AA(3) of the IGA (the prohibition on providing unlicensed regulated interactive gambling services to customers in Australia).

Deterrence and disruption measures

The ACMA will have a range of deterrence and disruption powers, including:

  • notifying licensing authorities in overseas jurisdictions about licensees who are breaching the provisions of the IGA  (section 59D of the Australian Communications and Media Authority Act 2005 (ACMA Act))

  • providing information to Australia’s border protection agency including the names of directors or principals of offending gambling services (section 59D of the ACMA Act), so they may be placed on the Movement Alert List, which may disrupt travel to Australia.

Enforcement

We have a range of powers to deal effectively with breaches of the IGA, including the power to:

  • issue formal warnings (sections 58 and 64A of the IGA)

  • issue infringement notices for contraventions of the IGA (section 64C of the IGA)

  • apply to the Federal Court or Federal Circuit Court for civil penalty orders for contraventions of the IGA, and/or injunctions (sections 64B and 64D of the IGA)

  • refer a matter to the Australian Federal Police for investigation, or to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, in connection with criminal offence provisions.

The ACMA is responsible for enforcing broadcasting licence conditions prohibiting the advertising of interactive gambling services, as set out in the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 and imposed on broadcasting licensees by section 61FD of the IGA.

The IGA prohibitions extend to any person who aids, abets, counsels or procures a contravention of the IGA. This means that the ambit of the IGA is extended to any individual who knowingly participates in the provision of prohibited or unlicensed interactive gambling services to Australians, such as affiliates, agents and the like.

Penalties

The IGA contains criminal offence and civil penalty provisions.

If a person is found guilty of an offence under the IGA, the penalty is 5,000 penalty units per day the offence continues (up to $1,050,000) or up to five times that for a body corporate (up to $5,250,000).

The civil penalty for a contravention of the IGA is up to 7,500 penalty units per day the offence continues (up to $1,575,000) or up to five times that for a body corporate (nearly $7,900,000).

The ACMA can apply to the Federal Court or Federal Circuit Court for a civil penalty order.

The penalties relating to the broadcast or publication of an advertisement for a prohibited or unlicensed regulated interactive gambling services are:

  • criminal—120 penalty units (up to $25,200)

  • civil—180 penalty units (up to $37,800) or $190,000 for a body corporate.

The penalty is over $500,000 a day for certain wagering operators that provide or offer credit, to persons physically in Australia. For individuals this figure is over $100,000 a day.

Interactive Gambling Industry Code

The internet industry also plays a role in managing the potential for problem gambling among Australians through the development of an industry code.

The Interactive Gambling Industry Code was registered by the ACMA in December 2001 under section 38 of the IGA. It is the responsibility of the Communications Alliance.

The code provides a mechanism for internet service providers (ISPs) to meet their legal obligations in dealing with designated internet gambling matters, including a scheme to deal with notifications by the ACMA of prohibited content. A complaint may be made to the ACMA about a breach of the code under section 17 of the IGA.

Last updated: 12 September 2017