Australia is without question one of the world’s principal gambling cultures. Recent studies have indicated that some 80% of the country’s adult population participates in traditional gambling activities at least once a year: This makes the highest rate in the world. Cumulatively, about 3% of disposable income is wagered within legal gambling activities, also the largest total among nations; at the turn of the millennium, an Australian government survey calculated that some 4% of citizens played pokies at old-fashioned “bricks-and-mortar” casinos – of which, over 400 outlets are still in business as of this writing – at least once a week.
For fiscal year 2009, the Australian government reported revenues to national and local government based on gambling at just over $19 billion, a sizable fraction of its intake.
Gambling in Australia
So from what did the mighty industry of Australian gambling grow? Legal wagering on horse racing may be traced back to 1809 – just about 20 years after British colonization of the continent began – with the opening of a track in New South Wales. By century’s end, horse tracks had been established in essentially every major township. Likewise, the then-dominant England-based bookmaker Tattersall’s established local, privately-funded lottery draws in 1880 in some provinces of the burgeoning country.
Australia was among the first to nationalize gambling on horse racing via the “totalisator” in the 1890s, concomitantly leading to the country’s early reputation as one of the world’s great equestrian sports capitals.
Naturally, things couldn’t run perfectly smoothly forever and by the 1950s, illegal gambling at horse tracks and elsewhere was considered endemic by a national government steadily deprived of revenues. This led to the establishment of “Totalisator Agency Boards”, or TABs, by 1960, which helped crack down on illegal wagering; in the 1980s, TABs upped their game with the help of satellite TV technology which allowed broadcasting of races in single locations to throughout the country. And the TABs established systems of national legal sports betting in Australia beginning in 1996.
Casinos in Australia
In tandem with the extreme rise in popularity of gambling on horse racing in the mid-1950s was the introduction and growth of video poker games and slot machines in Australia. After surreptitiously looking the other way on the occasional machine “for entertainment purposes only” appearing in pubs or elsewhere for a couple of decades, legislation came into effect in the early 1950s to regulate pokies and thus derive more income for government coffers.
In 1955, New South Wales became the first Australian territory to legalize poker machines in properly licensed clubs (no Vegas- or Monaco-style casinos would exist until the first opened in Tasmania in 1972), with every other region eventually following suit. To this day, nearly all gambling law in Australia and regulation regarding gambling activities is down to the individual states.
Online gambling in Australia
As in most other nations, Australian authorities have found the regulation of the by-nature borderless online casino offerings to be extremely challenging. Since as far back as 1998, Australian states have modified local law in attempts to criminalize the as-yet unregulated online gambling sphere. On the national level, the prevailing law is the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001, which makes the marketing of online gambling to Australian citizens a federal crime.
However, as the IGA does not explicitly disallow Australian citizens from playing and gambling online, a laissez-faire attitude toward private expenditures on the games endures. With many countries (particularly in Western Europe) seeking to regulate online casino gambling in the 2010s, however, this form of betting has come more to the forefront as a political issue since at least 2011; efforts to regulate have so far come to naught, though we should expect some sort of normalization sooner or later.
Aristocrat pokies software
Of course, it is nearly impossible to discuss gambling in Australia without mention of Aristocrat Leisure Limited. One of the single largest companies in all of Australia and reportedly the world’s second-largest supplier of pokie machines, Aristocrat was founded in 1953 with the original intent of supplying Las Vegas and Britain’s casinos with video poker games and one-armed bandits – though you can bet (so to speak) that Aristocrat was a driving force behind initial legalization efforts in New South Wales in ’55.
Australia’s international leader in supplying pokies to “bricks-and-mortar” casinos, pubs and other outlets has in the 2010s expanded its repertoire to the online realm, beginning with its established and well-loved titles such as Queen of the Nile pokies and 5 Dragons.
Most of the Aristocrat Online pokies are based on tied-and-true titles from land-based casinos, exemplified by the company’s flagship games Queen of the Nile (not to mention sequel Queen of the Nile II), 5 Dragons and the very popular 50 Lions pokies game. Since the release of these titles in 2010 and thereabouts, Aristocrat has evolved its online offerings to include the sort of bells, whistles and “Mega Pay”-type features that modern-day customers expect from online pokies.
Australia-themed slot games online
Naturally, the exotic land where evolution went on a bender has inspired many an online slot machine. Among Australian-themed slot games you might see at the online casino are the following.
The 20-payline slot game Red Sands is laden with all things Australia on its reels, and a didgeridoo sounds triumphantly on wins. That marsupial symbol of Oz, the kangaroo, is the wild and provides some nice payouts: Landing five on an active payline is worth 5,000 coins (or up to $25,000). The scatter symbol is a picturesque Antipodean night sky and earns a bonus multiplier of up to 50x on the amount wagered. Finally, Red Sands features a randomly-awarded progressive jackpot prize.
Diamonds Down Under takes the ever-popular “gems and jewels” theme to Australia in this 15-payline pokie from Rival Gaming. It’s touted as “filled with adventure, natural wonders and a rich culture,” plus “some of the diverse wildlife featuring koalas, kangaroos, crocodiles, and lizards.” But check out the payouts: 15,000x the bet (or up to $37,500) may be won in a single spin of Diamonds Down Under and the free spins bonus feature can win the player 100 free games.
Even superseding gambling in the hearts of Australians is a love for sport – and chief among the games Aussies play is rugby. So be sure to check out Odd-Shaped Balls, a paean to the national pastime which was originally released in advance of the 2007 (!) Rugby World Cup but has managed to remain a popular staple at online casinos. Maybe it’s the way the excitement of all aspects of the sport is colorfully rendered … but it’s probably the potential payouts! A $100,000 win is possible even in the “base game” and the red-headed lassie streaker is a scatter than can earn 25 free spins with a 10x bonus multiplier.