For decades, Australia has been known for its more liberal approach towards gambling and sports betting, in particular, and today, this is one of the largest markets for wagering on sports in the world. An estimated 80 per cent of citizens in the country engage in some form of gambling and there are numerous websites that cater to Aussie casino players and sports betting fans.
Gambling came in the country with the first English colonists and the first recorded sporting event with the purpose of gambling was held in 1810 in Sydney’s Hyde Park. This was a horse racing event and just with the other first forms of gambling in Australia, it demonstrated a distinctly British influence. Over the years, horse racing became extremely popular and by the end of the century, most of the major towns had race tracks. Some venues held greyhound and harness racing events, as well.
In 1913, the first mechanical totalizators were introduced at racetracks. These machines displayed the number of bets placed on a race and the total value, which helped maintaining fair odds for punters and bookies. With these totalizators, the payout for every bettor was easy to calculate. The machines were invented by Sydney-based mechanical engineer George Julius whose original idea was to create a voting calculating machine. After the government, however, did not approve of his too complex device, he re-purposed it and revolutionized the sports betting industry. Today, these displays are known as tote boards and, although fully electronic, are used at racetracks all around the world. And they gave the rise of what is known today as “tote betting”.
History and Overview of Sports Betting in Australia
Despite the popularity of betting on horse races in Australia, sports wagering was illegal for most of the XIX century and for the next 60 years at least. Over the years, laws became more relaxed and the so-called TAB outlets started accepting wagers on football. Betting on other sports has also gained popularity and in the 1990s, it exploded with plenty of betting shops and betting websites starting to emerge. Today, betting on sports wagers is a favourite pastime for thousands of Australians and the industry is constantly growing.
According to the 33rd edition of the Australian Gambling Statistics, the total gambling expenditure in the country increased from AU$22.734 billion in 2014–2015 to AU$23.648 billion in 2015–2016. During the same period, the total expenditure in sports betting saw the sharpest increase – up 13 per cent up to $921 million. Revenue from sports betting operations continues to grow and despite certain restrictions introduced recently by the government, the industry flourishes with new online bookmakers entering the market.
Those who are new to betting in Australia would probably wonder what “tote betting” is. This is one of the most important terms to know when gambling in this country, although it refers to a very specific type of gambling, namely the pooled bets in horse race betting. Since horse races are extremely popular among Aussies, totes or tote bets could be found in many sports betting sites.
This pooled bet is a collective bet of all wagers placed on a horse race and after the finish, the winnings are divided among bettors as per wins or losses. The interesting thing is that they do not know the odds until the last minute, as bets are accepted throughout the race. This uncertainty makes totes very exciting for both beginners and experienced punters. They are available not only on websites that specialize in horse racing betting but also in online sportsbooks targeting Australian bettors.
Another thing sports betting fans have probably come across in Australia are TAB shops, short for Totalizator Agency Board. They started out as the government-owned, monopoly totalizators in Australia and New Zealand, but most of them were privatized in the past two decades. They offer bets on thoroughbred, harness and greyhound racing, as well as bets on sports.
Today, there are thousands of TAB outlets and in 2015, the TABs in Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory were rebranded as UBET. Punters can place their bets in the shops, in on-course betting facilities, over the phone or online.
Sports Betting Legislation in Australia
Sports betting is completely legal in Australia and punters are offered a great choice of sports to wager on. They can place their bets in land-based venues or online and there are plenty of domestic sportsbooks that offer attractive odds, especially on Aussie sports. Of course, all online sportsbooks also accept wagers on sporting events taking place outside the country.
Just like any other form of gambling, sports betting is regulated at two different levels and both the Commonwealth (the central government) and the States are authorized to pass laws regarding sports betting. There are six Australian states and ten territories and each one of them has its own approach when it comes to regulation and taxation of betting operations. While the federal government is authorized to pass and amend laws that govern the gambling industry, most of the regulation is, in fact, under the jurisdiction of the states and territories of the country.
Each state has its own gambling and racing regulator, which issues licenses to operators that meet a long list of requirements. There are several other agencies under the Commonwealth, which are responsible for the regulation and oversight of various gambling operations across the country. For instance, the Australian Communications and Media Authority regulates interactive gambling, while the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre is responsible for monitoring and tracking of money laundering activities.
There are several types of licenses, depending on the type of gambling services operators provide and sportsbooks are licensed to offer only fixed-odds betting. Wagers can be placed by punters who are physically in the betting shop or remotely (by phone and online). Interestingly, only a few forms of gambling are allowed to be offered via the Internet – horse racing, lotteries and sports betting. Casino games, whether it would be Electronic Gaming Machines, also known as pokies, or classic table games cannot be played legally online. In fact, Australian gambling operators can offer online pokies or poker games online but only to foreign players. When it comes to online sports betting, the only market that is illegal is live betting.
Interactive Gambling Act in 2001
In order to address the rising concerns about problem gambling, the Commonwealth Parliament of Australia passed the Interactive Gambling Act in the summer of 2001. Designed to regulate and limit online gambling operations, this law was seen as highly restrictive. However, it bans only the providing of the so-called “interactive gambling” services in the country, which are quite specific. The term includes only instant-win scratch cards and lottery games, as well as in-play betting. In 2017, the Interactive Gambling Amendment was passed and it also banned online poker.
So, wagering on sports online is perfectly legal as long as it does not include live betting. It is also important to know that this law targets Australian and offshore gambling operators and bettors cannot be prosecuted for illegally placing bets on live sports events. In addition, authorities have hardly any tools to enforce the Act and fine foreign sportsbooks, which means that many of the sports betting sites are still actively offering their services to Australian-based punters.
Top Sports Betting Markets in Australia
When looking at the most popular sports for betting in Australia, we cannot help but notice that Aussies love their specific and quite unique sports. Many of the games played around the world have slightly different rules in Australia and sometimes, this influences the way we place bets. Another thing to remember is that despite the rise of sports betting in recent years, the betting industry in the country is still dominated by betting on horse races.
According to Roy Morgan Research’s latest Gambling Currency Report, published in April 2018, horseracing accounts for 50.9% of Australia’s total betting market. Greyhound racing constitutes 12.5% of the total, while harness racing is around 11.4%. Sports betting, on the other hand, accounts for 25% of the market.
Betting on horse races would normally be placed separately from sports betting as it is a huge market and deserves its own category. But due to its popularity in the country, all sportsbooks that cater to Australian punters accept bets on horse races. Before choosing this type of gambling, punters need to understand the basics of this sport and then choose the race to bet on. There are plenty of events every day, as well as large horse racing carnivals such as the Royal Ascot or the Melbourne Spring Carnival.
The next step is to choose a bet type and this is where betting on horses can be rather intimidating for beginners. The bets on these races are quite different from the bets on sports events, which is why it is always recommended to do a research online. Along with the totes, which are available only at licensed racebooks, you will find fixed-odds bets. The basic types include win bet (whether your horse will win the race outright), place bet, each way, Quinella, Trifecta, first four, quaddie, and more.
Australian Rules (AFL)
One of the most popular sports in Australia is Australian Rules Football, often referred to in online sportsbooks simply as Australian Rules. Despite its name, it bears little resemblance to American or European (soccer) football. It is a fast, dynamic game played with an oval-shaped ball and scoring is done by kicking the ball through four goal posts. The professional league where teams compete is called Australian Football League, which is why many sports betting sites offer bets simply on AFL.
Betting on AFL events is quite straightforward if you have some basic knowledge of the game and of sports betting as a whole. There are head-to-head bets where you simply bet on the team you believe will win the match. You can also opt for handicap or line betting, margin betting, over/under bets, multi-bets, futures, and many others.
Rugby League football is one of the two codes of rugby and certainly the most popular sport internationally. Although it started in England after splitting from Rugby Football Union, today is played around the world and is one of the most favourite sports to watch and bet on in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea where it is actually the national sport. Rugby League is exciting, fast and quite aggressive, which is why is it is one of the most spectacular games.
The league is composed of the European Super League and the National Rugby League (NRL). Most bookmakers offer bets on Rugby League, Rugby Football Union (England) and NRL (Australasia). Punters who choose to wager on rugby have plenty of bets to choose from and most of them are standard – head-to-head bets, margin bets, line or handicap bets, over/under bets, doubles, and many more specials.
Most sports fans who have visited Australia should have heard about The Ashes, the most important cricket competition in the world where this sport’s two top nations face off against each other. Of course, these are England and Australia and punters can place a wager on their favourite team on all online sportsbooks. But this is hardly the only cricket tournament where you can bet on – betting sites offer plenty of other options such as the ICC World Cup or the Indian Premier Cup (IPL).
When it comes to the types of bets, you can choose outright betting, futures, and various prop wagers such as which team has the highest opening batting partnership, the most sixes, the winner of the toss, individual match-ups, the correct series score, and many more.
Another sport that enjoys great popularity in Australia is soccer, also known as European football. Unlike American and Australian football or rugby, it is played with a round leather ball which is kicked by the players. The game originated in England but has gained popularity around the world and today, it is one of the sports most sought after by punters.
In Australia, sports betting fans can place wagers on domestic tournaments, European cups, the World Cup, and many more. There are various bets, with single bets and match odds (win-draw-win bet) being the most standard ones. There are many other options such as multi-betting, accumulators (more than three bets on the same ticket), total goals (over/under), and punters can also bet on the halftime, the first goal, or the correct score.
Whether played on hard courts, clay or grass, tennis is a popular worldwide spectator sport that allows punters to bet on various events all year round. The four Grand Slam tournaments attract huge crowds and millions of viewers during TV and online broadcasts. These Majors start with the Australian Open in January and continue with the French Open, Wimbledon in London, and the US Open.
Just as the other professional sports mentioned above, tennis also draws millions of bettors in betting shops and online sportsbooks. Australian sportsbooks offer plenty of tennis bets such as head-to-head bets (the most common wager in this sport), multi-betting, futures, bets on set scores, and props, which are often referred to as exotic bets by Aussies.
How to Pick a Sports Betting Site?
There are many good, reliable sports betting sites that offer a large variety of markets to bet on in combination with great odds, which is very important. However, Australian-based players should look for several other specific things when choosing an online sportsbook to register an account with. It is a good option to pick a domestic sportsbook that is licensed and regulated within Australia, but there is one particular downside of this – Australian-based sport betting sites will not offer live betting. Below, we have outlined the major things you should consider if you are placing wagers online from Australia.
Banking Options Available to Australian Punters
When choosing a domestic or offshore site for betting on sports, punters in Australia should look at each platform’s banking options. Usually, sportsbooks process payments via MasterCard and Visa credit or debit cards, which is a top choice for many punters, as well. The deposits via credit cards are usually free of charge and are displayed immediately in your betting account. Withdrawals can sometimes come with a small service fee and are complete within 1 to 5 business days.
Several digital wallets are also available to Australian punters and they include Skrill (formerly Moneybookers) and Neteller, as well as ClickandBuy, which can be used around the world. One of the most popular payment methods for Australian punters is POLi, an instant online banking service, which is offered at many online sportsbooks. Deposits are instant, transfers are anonymous, and withdrawals of your winnings are charged with low processing fees. Of course, most sportsbooks on the Internet also accept cheques and bank transfers, but traditionally, these methods are much slower.
One of the most important things here is to look for sites, which operate in multiple currencies and Australian dollars. Otherwise, you may need to pay extra for exchange fees.
Bonuses and Promotions
The other essential step in picking the right online sports betting site is to choose the betting operator with the best promotional offers. In order to attract new customers, many sportsbooks have great welcome bonuses of various kinds – a bonus that matches your first deposit, a no-deposit bonus such as free bets, etc. A large number of sites also have cashback bonuses for those who have not been very lucky recently. For instance, you can receive 10% or 30% cashback on the losses you incurred during the past week.
There are many other types of promotions and special offers such as reward programs, weekly giveaways, or extra payouts on particular sporting events and bets. Before opting for any of them, however, punters need to look at the Bonus Terms and Conditions of the site they register at. There are usually wagering requirements you need to meet before you can request a withdrawal of your winnings. For instance, you may need to place wagers worth several times your deposit or limit the maximum amount of your bets.
It is also essential to check whether the online sportsbook can be contacted if you face a problem of any kind. Most of the good sports betting sites have Live Chat functionality and an email, but you should also look for a phone number if you want to speak to the customer support agents in person. If you are registering at an offshore sportsbook, make sure that not only the site’s interface is in English but that the support team is fluent in English, as well.
In addition, well-established betting operators also offer around-the-clock customer support, so that even if they are based in another country, they can assist you as fast as possible. Good sportsbooks also feature Help pages and Frequently Asked Questions sections where customers can get important information on the sports they bet on, their user account, the banking options, various technical issues, and many more.
Whether the website you choose to place your bets on is based in Australia or not, it should be properly licensed and regulated by the jurisdiction its operator is located in. There is no guarantee that all licensed gambling sites are, indeed, reliable, safe and fair, but a license means that its issuer had at least checked whether the operator meets basic industry standards.
It is also important that the website you bet on for real money uses encryption and other tools for online protection. A standard protection includes firewalls and SSL/TLS encryption protocols, but in most cases, this is more than enough to protect your personal and banking data on the Internet.
Australian-based punters also have the opportunity to place bets directly from their phones as most of the large sports betting sites have fully functional mobile platforms. While some operators focus on offering specially designed Android and iPhone apps, others optimize their websites to be accessible from touchscreen devices. It does not matter which alternative you will choose as long as the mobile sportsbook offers all the features and options of the original, desktop version.