History of gambling in Australia

Australia has a long-standing relationship with gambling. It was been a part of Aussie culture for generations and has provided many hours of fun and big wins for thousands of people. Once you examine the beginnings of gambling in Australia, online gambling seems relatively new. Online casinos are flourishing in Australia. Players love gambling online because it is convenient and in Australia it is safe.

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Are you interested in finding out how gambling became a well-loved hobby in Australia?

Arrival of gambling

British colonists brought gambling to Australia. Early gambling took place in clubs which were established for socialising rather than making money. During the 19th century horse racing was very popular as horses as a mode of transport were respected. While gambling was not formally controlled, there was some opposition to it as it was considered deviant by religious groups. Government tried to prohibit gambling amongst the lower classes and ignored gambling activity in the upper classes of society.

Economic benefits of gambling

By the early to mid-20th century the government began to recognise the economic benefits of gambling and started to take steps to regulate rather than ban gambling. While gambling on the lower classes was still highly restricted, horse racing was developed further and the betting was made easier with the introduction of the mechanical tote. With government closing in, illegal betting shops had to operate with caution. Then in the early 1920s Queensland opened the state-run Golden Casket lottery, one of the first regulated and legal betting systems. The profits were used to relieve state funds and were invested back into society, proving that government could run gambling to its potential rather than to the detriment of society. In fact, the Queensland government donated its profits to the Motherhood, Child Welfare, and Hospital Fund. After that state lotteries were established in every state.

Government endorsement

During the Second World War the government continued to endorse gambling for social benefit and attempts to restrict illegal gambling were stronger. Instead of outlawing gambling, the government continued to legalise gambling during the 1950s and 1960s and worked to wipe out corruption in the industry. From the 1970s onwards, more and more clubs opened in NSW. During that time new technology allowed government to better control the industry. With more gambling venues opening across the country, people accepted gambling as a leisure activity.


The establishment of the casino happened in periods or waves, starting in the 1970s in Tasmania and the Northern Territory. Casinos here were small and based on British casinos. The second wave of development took place in Adelaide, Perth, the Gold Coast, Canberra, and Christmas Island during 1980-1990s and aimed to encourage tourism. The third wave took place in the 1990s and saw large casinos built in urban areas such as Melbourne.

Online gambling

In 1992, Centrebet received the first sports bookmaking license. Online gambling was first introduced in the Northern Territory in 1996, but was banned in 2000. However, in 2001 the Interactive Gambling Act (IGA) was passed and served to regulate internet gambling.