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History of gambling in Australia

History of gambling in Australia - 100 Сurious Facts Carefully Analyzed

If you are an avid casino visitor, or just prefer to play roulette online when you are feeling particularly lucky, then we can surely say: “Sir, you are definitely a gambler”.

We have spent a lot of time and spared no effort to bring you these carefully selected and analyzed hot facts about the history of Australian gambling.

If you are an Aussie yourself or just like the unique “flavor” of Australian gambling in general, then you are in for a treat.

So, without further adue, feel free to indulge yourself in this awesome infographic.

history of gambling in Australia

While gambling was not legalized up until 1956, specifically gambling machines, the very first slots appeared as early as in 1900, but remained illegal for half a century. Speaking of which, the first slot machine was famous Clubman. It was produced by company «Aristocrat» and designed by Joe Heywood.

Horse racing as the definition of early history of gambling

We can't surprise anyone with horse racing nowadays. But did you know that it was Was the very first form of authorized Australian gambling in history starting from 19th century? Also, taking and placing all the bets was done manually until 1913 when one of the biggest developments in race wagering, the automatic totalizator, appeared.

It allowed the automatic calculation of race odds given betting patterns and was invented in Australia by George Julius. And now, horse racing is well-appointed with automatic totalizators, starting gates and photo finish cameras on nearly all Australian racecourses. In recent years, corporate bookmakers operating online and through mobile apps have become increasingly popular through various specials, promotion and ease of use.

This was all made possible due to legalization of betting, which brings about $ 7.3 billion annually.

Lottery. When and how

Even those of us who do not visit casinos regularly may have at some point tried our luck at lottery. The same can be said about Aussies who have the love for betting coursing through their veins. And it has all started quite a long time ago as the first lottery in Australian betting history was established in Sydney in 1880. It was carried out by a private company Tattersall’s, which you can learn more about here.

When government realized how effective this type of betting was in terms of profit, it organized the first government lottery in Queensland in 1916. It was Golden Casket, and its aim was raising funds for veterans of World War I and other charitable and public purposes. Also, don't think you could have won millions on it during those times as the first prize was only $50,000. When it comes to modern age, the earliest modern Australian lottery was created in the early 1970s. This was known as the “Tattslotto” draw and was offered in the state of Victoria. The idea was that the lottery would help raise funds for the state health system.

Be mindful that not everyone can buy lottery ticket as the minimum age to purchase lottery products is 18 in all states except for Western Australia, where the age is lowered to 16.

Casinos at the beginning of Australian gambling history

Even though it is completely fine to visit Australian casinos nowadays, you should know that until 1973 casinos were banned. It was believed that casinos are difficult to control and that they are a destructive force to the society.

When it comes to the question «which one was first?», Wrest Point Hotel Casino was opened on 10 of February, 1973, and it was the first legal casino in Australia. You may be surprised, but it successfully operates up till this day. If you wish to find yourself at the largest gaming center in Australian betting history, be sure to visit Crown Entertainment Complex, located in Melbourne, with its 350 tables and 5,000 slots.

But do not think that all others lack something in comparison to it. Australia has not less than 15 large casinos, all of which are improved each year, and at the moment they are the most luxurious and modern in the world.

Pokies. Enough said

Ah, the mysterious pokies. Almost every single gambler has heard of the term, but not all of them have experienced it in actual casino. In general, there is no documented date of when the term «Pokies» was first used as standard term for video slots in Australia. Advertising for casinos and pubs always calls the games pokies. The word «pokies» is some kind of slang word that become Australian name of poker machines.

You should know that the first legal pokies in Australian betting history were allowed in the clubs of New South Wales in 1956. Only in 1976, pokies were legalized by Australian Capital Territory. Not just that, but 4 years later, in 1980 slot machines pushed out betting and lottery from the first positions of the most popular forms of betting in Australia.

Today, about a quarter of all the slot machines in the world is in Australia, more than 50% of them - in New South Wales. With the emergence of online gambling, in 2004 Microgaming released Thunderstruck, so Australian style pokies became available online. The important chapter in the history of pokies is the move to mobile gaming. With the invention of the smartphone and tablets people can now play and win on the pokies anywhere and at any time.

New South Wales - the center of Australian gambling

NSW is the beating heart of Australian betting spirit. It was here that in a bid to capitalize on the money and interest associated with the sport at the time, in 1861 the Victorian Turf Club came up with the idea to hold a little race called the Melbourne Cup. Lottery, sports betting, everything began here, with the former appearing during the war. Opening up casinos was a strategic move for government. It was closely tied to the period of economic downturn in the 1970s and the attempt by underdeveloped states to revitalize flagging economies.

To check how gambling in NSW is kept in check, go here

How is gambling regulated?

First of all, we should take a look at IGA, The Interactive Gambling Act of 2001, which was passed to protect Australian residents from the potentially harmful effects of online gambling.

Each region of Australia has its own set of regulations and different departments overseeing the betting in the country.

Casino regulation, as an example, exists specifically to regulate not only proper and legal work of land based casinos, but to ensure smooth experience for the visitors as well. Specifically, casino regulation ensures that:

-the casino is free from anything related to criminal activities;

-appropriate strategies for harm minimization related to problem gambling exist;

-gaming activity is conducted fairly and in accordance with approved rules and operating procedures;

-casino administration, finance and security operations are conducted according to the approved control procedures;

-casino equipment, cards and chips are only purchased from approved suppliers and live up to the required standards.

You can get more info here.

Taxes and profits

Due to the increasing popularity of this industry in general, State and territory governments increasingly rely on gambling tax for revenue. For example, Victoria and South Australia collected the largest annual profit from betting per capita - $ 350 and $ 300 respectively. Also, it is not considered a profession, it's treated as a hobby or recreational activity so winners are not taxed, the government taxes gambling operators instead. You can get more information by reading about it here.

If you are living in Australia, then you are not required to pay tax on money you win betting on sports, which is certainly a plus if you planned to do it.

What good and bad things gambling in Australia has wrought?

Let's be clear and simple. It brings a lot of money to Australia. Revenue from gaming machines in pubs and clubs accounts for more than half of the $4 billion in gambling revenue collected by state governments in fiscal year. Among all regions, Fairfield is the most profitable region in terms of gambling. The highest revenues from pokies were recorded as recently as 2013, generating A$391 million in just a 9-month period, largest sum in Australian gambling history ever.

While in Wyong, in 2010-11, venues made approximately $123,159,000 in profit from pokies. That equates to $1,000 for each adult member of Wyong's population. This leads us to the fact that gambling has created a lot of jobs for the population of this continent. The online wagering and sportsbetting industry in Australia employs more than 1000 Australians and has over two million Australian customers, while the number of jobs people get in land based casino and so on is enormous.

Despite this, this form of entertainment has also left its negative marks on the country, the economy and its people. The average player loses $380 every year on betting. When talking about problem gamblers, this number goes up to $12000. The social cost of problem gambling is at least $4.7 billion a year, which translates to huge losses for the country which tries to deal with this problem. Also, the harms from problem gambling can include suicide, depression, relationship breakdown, lowered work productivity, job loss, bankruptcy and crime. If that was not enough, fraud thrives on gambling and a 2008 survey found that gambling was the most common motivation for fraud with average loss being $1.1 million per incident. Learn more about it here.

The problem gambling also does not concern a single separate person as the rough count of people directly affected ignores the ‘ripple effects’ of problem gambling. For each problem gambler, several others are affected — including family members, friends, employers and colleagues.

Nevertheless, constant measures, both social and legal, are being enacted to deal with these issues so no player should ever panic. Just remember, common sense and cautiousness beats recklessness any day.

Is problem gaming really that bad?

Actually, it may become this way if no real measures are taken. Up to 500,000 Australians are at risk of becoming, or are, problem gamblers. The other side of the problem is that only around 15 per cent of problem gamblers seek help.

Problem gamblers lose around $21,000 each year. That’s one third of the average Australian salary. Not only that, some poker machines can be played at extremely high intensity – a gambler could lose more than $1,500 in just one hour. It also does not concern only one age category. Young people (18-24 year olds) spend more on poker machines than any other age group.

Many adult problem gamblers report having developed gambling problems during their teenage years. Gender and type of gambling itself also matter in regards to this issue as three-quarters of problem gamblers have problems with poker machines. It’s even higher for women – in 9 out of 10 cases poker machines are identified as the cause of problems for women.

According to statistics, it may also ruin whole marriages. These people are six times more likely to be divorced than non problem gamblers. Not only that, they are four times more likely to have problems with alcohol and four times as likely to smoke daily.

This problem may also become a problem of children in such families as children with parents who are problem gamblers are up to 10 times more likely to become problem gamblers themselves than ones in normal families. You can read more about the issue here.

How Internet has changed gambling in Australia?

Nowadays, online gaming is the fastest growing form of gambling in Australian history. Its opportunities for Aussies are excellent as the IGA does not specifically prohibit Australian gamblers from playing at real money online casinos. As for the sports betting online, it is legal, provided that it is associated with a land-based business. However, in-play sports betting is classed as "interactive" gambling, therefore falling under the IGA and making it illegal for Australian online bookmakers to offer it to residents. As for the lotteries, all of them are permitted beside keno-style games, scratch tickets, and instant lotteries.

The online market of casinos is expanding very fast, creating more and more opportunities for players to win big by playing their favorite slots and increasing revenue for the country at the same time.

Easy to see. Easier to understand

When it comes to gambling, Australians are always ready and willing. Let’s take a look at how gambling was developing over 200 years in this country. For more information, go here.

Year                Milestone

1809-1810    First organized race meet in a country (specifically in New South Wales)

1861               First Melbourne Cup occurred

1879-1880    Tote appears in the country

1915-1916    First automatic totalisator machine was used in Western Australia

1920-1921    The first government-run lottery in Australia (Golden Casket lotteries in Queensland)

1930-1940    'SP' bookies are on the rise around the country Australian

1955-1956    Poker machines were first legalized in clubs

1960-1961    Victoria was the first state to make TAB off-course betting legal

1965-1966    South Australia was the last state to introduce state-run lotteries following a referendum

1972-1973    First casino in Australia opened its doors!

1973-1974    Lotto introduced in South Australia

1974-1975    TAB appeared in Tasmania

1976-1977    Lotteries, lotto and gaming machines started to take place in the Australian Capital Territory

1977-1978    Off-course bookmakers phased out in Tasmania

1978-1979    Instant lotteries introduced in South Australia

Lotto introduced in Western Australia, Northern Territory

On-course/Off-course bookmakers, Lotteries introduced in Northern Territory

1979-1980    Lotto introduced in New South Wales

On-course totalisator and instant lotteries introduced in Northern Territory

Sky City Casino opens in the Northern Territory

1980-1981    Lotteries re-introduced in Tasmania

1981-1982    Lotto introduced in Queensland

Instant lotteries were made available in Victoria, Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory

1982-1983    Instant lotteries introduced in New South Wales and Western Australia

1984-1985    2 years later they appeared in Queensland

1985-1986    First casino opened its doors in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia

TAB was first legalized in Northern Territory

1989-1990    Lotteries appeared throughout South Australia

1990-1991    Gaming machines appeared in Victoria

Off-course bookmakers phased out in Northern Territory

1991-1992    Gaming machines were introduced in Queensland

Keno introduced in New South Wales, South Australia

1992-1993    Different lotteries popped out around Western Australia

Casino Canberra opens in ACT

1993-1994    Keno first appeared in Victoria

1994-1995    Crown Casino opens in Victoria

Gaming machines introduced in clubs and hotels in South Australia

Keno surfaced in Tasmania

Sports betting introduced in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory

1995-1996    Star City Casino held its opening ceremony in New South Wales

Sports betting was legalized in Queensland, Australian Capital Territory

1996-1997    Gaming machines first appeared in Tasmania

1997-1998    Keno legalized in Queensland

1998-1999    Interactive gambling introduced in Northern Territory

1999-2000    It then appeared in Queensland, Tasmania

2005-2006    Betting exchange licensed and begins operation in Tasmania


Ah, Australia! The land of numerous possibilities and gambling thrills of titanic proportions. From slots to horse betting, any lover of gambling in general will surely find something to enjoy and be excited about in this county’s bright and memorable casinos and well-crafted online gambling sites. If you still haven’t indulged yourself in the world of Aussie gambling lifestyle, then you haven’t really lived yet!

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