Gambling laws are complicated, and never has that been more true than when the game of poker is concerned. In the eyes of many, this is a game of skill, not chance, so it should be legal everywhere, but the governments of the world think differently. In Australia, it is legal, for the most part, but there are some exceptions, and these apply depending on where you live and where you play.
What are the Rules?
The laws differ from state to state, but online poker, as with all gambling games, is governed by something known as The Interactive Gambling Act of 2001. This basically says that it is illegal for an Australian-based gambling site to operate if it is appealing to Australian players, and it is also illegal for that site to advertise to Aussies (with heavy fines imposed on anyone who breaks that law). However, there is no law saying that Australians can’t play on sites based overseas, which is why the biggest gambling sites in the world allow Aussies to signup.
As far as offline poker goes, it all depends on where you live. In New South Wales, for instance, there are very few restrictions. But in Western Australia, there are many. In the former, there are casinos and card rooms in every city and town, but in the latter, you’re restricted to one licensed casino in the city of Perth.
For a poker site or room to operate legally in this country, it needs the proper licenses from the proper local authorities, and while such licenses do exist across the country, they are a little harder to attain in some states than they are in others.
Are Poker Winnings Taxed?
This is a contentious issue, but you might be surprised with the answer. The truth is that poker winnings are taxable in Australia, but there is a huge exception, and one that applies to everyone playing the game as a hobby. This seems like a clear and obvious line, but it becomes a murky and less-obvious one when you try to define it.
Is the unemployed man who spends his days on poker sites playing as a hobby or a career? Technically, it’s all he does all day and that’s where all of his money comes from, but if he’s barely making enough to cover his rent, it hardly seems fair to tax him, and it hardly makes sense to say that he is playing as a career.
This law faced the ultimate test when Joe Hachem won the World Series of Poker, scooping millions of dollars. He is certainly a professional player now and he became one soon afterwards, but in his mind, he wasn’t one when he played the tournament. Even though he forked out a buy-in of $10,000 and played for several days straight, he told the tax authorities that he was just playing as a hobby. Sounds hard to believe? Well, they did believe him, and he was allowed to keep all of his money. Of course, they would have taxed earnings after that, because it’s obvious he was a professional following his victory, but with several million sitting in his bank account already, it’s fair to assume that he didn’t care.
Legal Poker Sites
One of the best sites out there for Australian poker fans is 888 Poker. This is actually one of the 3 biggest poker networks in the world and has trumped the likes of OnGame and iPoker already, even though it can only be found on the 888 Poker site, whereas the aforementioned networks are used by dozens of gambling sites.
888 Poker is also one of the fastest growing sites, keen to knock Pokerstars from its perch. And with some go the best bonuses, software and tournaments, as well as some big names and some big promotions behind it, it seems likely that 888 Poker will be the biggest one day.
All of the following are available to anyone who joins and assists with its campaign of dominance:
- Deposit Bonus: This is paid out when you sign up and make your first deposit, and it offers a total of $400, basically doubling your deposit. This does not need to be unlocked steadily like many other poker bonuses do.
- Free-Rolls and Freebies: Not only can you access a number of First Depositors free-rolls, where you can get free access to some big tournaments, but you can also pickup free tickets to tournaments that typically cost money to buy into.
- Guaranteed Tournaments: 888 Poker offers a number of guaranteed tournaments, whereby they supplement the stakes with money of their own. This sound more generous than it is though, at least for the most part.