Interactive Gambling Act 2001
In view of media interest in aspects of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (IGA), the ACMA provides the following information about how the IGA operates.
Background on the IGA
The IGA prohibits three activities:
- providing an interactive gambling service to customers in Australia
- providing an Australian-based interactive gambling service to customers in designated countries
- advertising interactive gambling services.
Section 61FD of the IGA also imposes an additional condition on the different categories of broadcasting licences to the effect that the licensee must not broadcast an interactive gambling service advertisement.
What kinds of interactive gambling services are covered by the IGA?
A complaint may be made to the ACMA, under section 16 of the IGA, if a person has reason to believe that end-users in Australia can access prohibited internet gambling content using an internet carriage service. Prohibited internet gambling content is defined in section 4 of the IGA as internet content that is accessed, or available for access, by an end-user in the capacity of customer of a prohibited internet gambling service.
A prohibited internet gambling service is defined at section 6 of the IGA as a gambling service where:
- (a) the service is provided in the course of carrying on a business; and
- (b) the service is provided to customers using an internet carriage service; and
- (c) an individual who is physically present in Australia is capable of becoming a customer of the service.
Some gambling services are expressly excluded from this prohibition, under subsection 6(3) of the IGA, such as an ‘excluded wagering service’, which is defined in section 8A to include services for betting on horse racing or sporting events.
Under subsection 15(1) of the IGA, a person commits an offence if the person intentionally provides an interactive gambling service to a customer physically present in Australia. An interactive gambling service, as defined at subsection 5(1) of the IGA, is a gambling service where:
- (a) the service is provided in the course of carrying on a business; and
- (b) 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.
Examples include online casinos, online slot machines and internet-based services that accept in-play ‘live’ sports bets online.
Many traditional gambling services, including telephone betting services, are not prohibited by the IGA because they are expressly excluded (by subsection 5(3) of the IGA) from the meaning of interactive gambling service.
Although all complaints about prohibited internet gambling content are made to the ACMA, it does not investigate them all:
- The ACMA may only investigate complaints about potentially prohibited internet gambling content which is hosted overseas. Subsection 24(1) of the IGA states that, if the ACMA is satisfied that internet content hosted outside Australia is prohibited internet gambling content, the ACMA should notify the content to accredited internet filter providers (as defined in the Internet Industry Interactive Gambling Industry Code 2001) and a member of an Australian police force (in practice, the Australian Federal Police (AFP)).
- The ACMA refers complaints about potentially prohibited internet gambling content which is hosted in Australia to the AFP (where it considers the referral is warranted). The ACMA understands that, when the AFP receives a complaint about Australian-hosted internet content referred by the ACMA, it considers the matter against a publicly-available Case Categorisation and Prioritisation Model (CCPM), including whether it should be escalated to decide if the matter should be investigated.
- The Department of Communications and the Arts is responsible for administering Part 7A of the IGA, which prohibits the advertising of interactive gambling services (save for the enforcement of the licence condition imposed on broadcasting licensees by section 61FD of the IGA, which is a matter for the ACMA).
This Media Matters post may be updated from time to time, to address additional aspects of the IGA or other changes in circumstance.
ACMA referrals to the AFP
It has come to the ACMA’s attention through complaints that some services have become available in Australia that allow users to place a bet through a function on the service provider’s webpage after the commencement of a sporting event (an in-play bet). Some providers of these services market their offerings as telephone betting services. However, a telephone betting service has a very specific meaning in the IGA, defined at section 4 of the IGA as:
- a gambling service provided on the basis that dealings with customers are wholly by way of voice calls made using a standard telephone service.
The ACMA was concerned that such services may not involve the service providers dealing with customers wholly by way of a standard telephone service.
Accordingly, where complaints to the ACMA were about potentially prohibited internet gambling content hosted in Australia, the ACMA referred those complaints to the AFP.
The AFP assessed those referrals with reference to its CCPM and, in October 2015, declined to accept them for investigation.
Notwithstanding the AFP’s decision, the ACMA remains concerned about the potentially prohibited internet gambling content complained of and may refer future complaints about similar Australian hosted content to the AFP.
Update – 21 January 2016
An article in the Herald Sun of 21 January 2016, ‘Federal Police Examine In-play Betting’, stated that:
'The Australian Federal Police is examining a complaint about the bookmaker’s [William Hill] in-play betting service. The ACMA had a complaint thrown out in October, but the AFP received a second complaint about the service on December 24.'
The ACMA has not ‘had a complaint thrown out’.
The ACMA receives complaints about interactive gambling services under the IGA.
It must not investigate complaints about internet gambling content hosted in Australia, but consider whether they should be referred to the AFP.
In the event that complaints are about internet gambling content hosted outside Australia, the ACMA may investigate these complaints and consider whether to notify the content to the AFP and designated internet service providers.
The AFP considers complaints referred to it by the ACMA with reference to its CCPM in deciding whether or not to investigate those complaints.
Update – 28 January 2016
The ACMA has been considering complaints about betting services that permit bets to be placed after a sporting event has commenced, other than by ‘telephone betting services’.
- Under section 8A of the IGA, certain betting services may be excluded wagering services, defined as:
(a) a service to the extent to which it relates to betting on, or on a series of, any or all of the following:
(i) a horse race;
(ii) a harness race;
(iii) a greyhound race;
(iv) a sporting event;
(b) a service to the extent to which it relates to betting on:
(i) an event; or
(ii) a series of events; or
(iii) a contingency;
that is not covered by paragraph (a).
However, under section 8A(2) of the IGA, the exemption ceases to apply if the service relates to betting on a sporting event, or contingency, once the event has begun.
The ACMA considered that the betting services were unlikely to be excluded wagering services, as it was concerned that bets could be placed after a sporting event had commenced.
Accordingly, where complaints to the ACMA were about potentially prohibited internet gambling content hosted in Australia, the ACMA referred those complaints to the AFP in January 2016.
This Media Matters post may be updated from time to time, to address additional aspects of the IGA or other changes in circumstances.