Land-based gambling

Types

What types of land-based gambling are permitted in your jurisdiction, and is gambling regulated at a national or subnational level?

Land-based gambling is regulated at the state and territory levels. Permitted forms of land-based gaming include wagering (including totalisator betting), lotteries, casino gaming and gaming machines (known as poker machines).

Only licensed casinos are permitted to provide table gaming services. The principal licensed casino operators are:

  • The Star Entertainment Group Limited, which operates casinos in Sydney and in South East Queensland; and
  • Crown Resorts Limited, which operates casinos in Melbourne and Perth (and Sydney from 2021).

Licensed venue operators, including casinos, pubs and clubs, are permitted to operate poker machines, although the regulatory authorities limit the number of machines in circulation at any given time. In Western Australia, poker machines are only permitted in casinos.

Historically, government-owned entities were the sole providers of retail wagering and lottery services. However, these entities have been privatised in all states except Western Australia (where the totalisator will be offered for sale to the private sector). Tabcorp Group, a publicly listed company that merged with its principal competitor (Tatts Group) in 2017, holds exclusive licences for the provision of these services in most states and territories.

Establishment licensing

Please describe the licensing criteria to operate land-based gambling of each type or classification. Does your jurisdiction limit the number of available licences?

The licensing process for operators of land-based gambling activities varies greatly depending on the jurisdiction in which the services are being offered and the type of services being offered.

For example, in NSW, a liquor licence issued to a pub or club will specify the maximum number of poker machines that are permitted to be operated in the venue. In order to own and operate a poker machine, a liquor licensee must obtain a Gaming Machine Entitlement (GME) or Poker Machine Permit (PMP). The number of GMEs and PMPs are limited by the NSW regulator. However, pubs and clubs can negotiate the purchase or use of a GME or PMP from an existing permit holder (or through a broker). Any such arrangement must be approved by the NSW regulator.

As outlined above, land-based wagering services and lotteries are conducted under long-term exclusive licensing arrangements in each state and territory. Previously, only a limited number of casino licences were granted in each jurisdiction, however, in recent years a number of new licences were the subject of a tender process in Queensland. The licensing process for casino operators is particularly onerous. Prior to licensing, applicants for the licence will generally enter into a lengthy and competitive tender process, during which they will be required to provide evidence of, for example, their suitability, financial position, the impact of the proposed casino on tourism, employment and economic development, and expertise in the provision of gambling services.

Director, officer and owner licensing

Must individual directors, officers or owners of licensees also be licensed or reviewed for suitability?

Generally, the regulatory and licensing authority in each jurisdiction will require any person who is associated or connected with a gambling operation to be investigated to determine his or her suitability. The investigation is commonly referred to as ‘probity’.

Whether a person is sufficiently associated or connected with the gambling operation is usually at the discretion of the authority and may include an investigation of directors, officers, employees and any person or company with a direct or indirect ownership interest (in some cases, as low as 5 per cent). In some instances, employees or persons involved in the day-to-day operation of the company will need to undergo a separate licensing process (eg, as a key employee).

Probity investigations can be onerous and will usually require the person or company being investigated to disclose sensitive information, including in relation to litigious matters and, in some cases, complete financial records including a current statement of assets and liabilities.

Location

May a gambling location be part of a resort, restaurant or other multi-purpose location? What limitations apply?

Land-based gambling activities are usually offered in conjunction with the provision of other services. For example, a casino is usually only one part of a larger resort that provides hotel or residential accommodation, restaurants and shopping facilities. The integration of these services is limited by the requirement to restrict gambling activities to designated areas. Among other limitations, access to designated areas must be limited to persons over 18, the service of food and alcohol is not permitted, and responsible gambling warning messages must be displayed at all times. Similar restrictions apply to retail betting shops.

Passive/institutional ownership

Are there provisions for passive or institutional ownership that allow for exemption or modification of licensing requirements?

The relevant legislation does not provide for a passive or institutional owner to be excluded from applicable licensing requirements. However, in practice, institutional investors may be subject to a lower probity threshold on the basis that they do not have an active role in the operation or management of the licensee.

Responsible gambling

What responsible gambling obligations apply to licensees?

The responsible gambling obligations that apply to a supplier of land-based gambling services vary, depending on the licensing jurisdiction, the conditions attached to the licence and the type of services being provided. Generally, gambling service providers will be required to provide customers with:

  • the option to self-exclude from the services provided by the operator (this is done on an individual operator basis - no centralised system is currently in place, although a centralised system is proposed in relation to wagering as part of the NCPF);
  • options for imposing voluntary pre-commitment limits; and
  • information about responsible gambling support services.

Also, warning material must be displayed in the designated gambling area.

Taxes

What type of tax and what tax rate applies to each form of lawful land-based gambling activity?

Gambling taxes vary greatly depending on the type of gambling service and the jurisdiction in which it is provided. Generally, specific taxes will be payable to the relevant regulatory body as a percentage of net or gross revenue. The tax applied may also be metered for fixed revenue brackets, or increase year on year under the licence conditions. Finally, a point of consumption (POC) tax has been introduced recently in most Australian states and territories to apply to online wagering services.

In addition to specific gambling taxes, operators will also be required to pay corporate taxes and goods and services tax (GST) (see question 21).