The History of Gambling in Australia
It is estimated that 80% of the Australian population participates in gambling in one form or another, and with numbers as high as this it’s obvious that gambling has a long and well-established history in the country. In fact, it’s the highest rate of gambling in the world! With this in mind we’ve put together a history of gambling in Australia in an attempt to establish where it all got started and why it remains such a popular pastime today.
1788: The Beginnings of Gambling in Australia
A gambling coin game called ‘Two-Up’ was developed within a few years of the first European settler’s arrival in Australia in 1788, and the phenomenon soon spread throughout the colony. The game’s popularity expanded to Western Australia and South Australia during the gold rushes of the 1850s and 1860s.
1810-1861: Birth of Horseracing
Just like Two-Up, the concept of horseracing arrived with the first European settlers in 1788 and by 1810 the first official horserace was being held at Hyde Park, Sydney and steeplechases and trotting races appeared in New South Wales around the same time. The popularity of horse racing quickly spread and the Melbourne Cup was established in 1861 by the Victorian Turf Club.
1916: First Australian Lottery
The founder of Tattersalls, George Adams, established the first true lottery game in Australia when he put together a sweepstakes for the Sydney Cup in 1881. The first official Australian lottery – the Golden Casket Art Union was established during World War I, and was designed as a way to raise funds for charities and community projects around the country. Over the ensuing years many more lotteries were established in order to fund hospitals, schools, and other infrastructure.
1956: Pokies Legalised in New South Wales
Years before the rise of online roulette Canada, New South Wales became the first Australian state to legalise gaming machines, or pokies, in pubs and clubs in 1956, and thus began the incredible popularity of pokies which still continues today. Even though pokies are popular in other states, New South Wales remains the undisputed home of Australian pokies with almost half of all machines residing in the state.
1973: The First Casino Opens
Everything changed for Australia’s players in 1973 when the first land-based casino, the Wrest Point Hotel and Casino, opened its doors in Hobart, Tasmania. This provided Australian players with the opportunity to play legitimate versions of blackjack, roulette, and baccarat, and now there is at least casino in each state or territory in Australia.
1991: Gambling Legalised in Victoria
While pokies and the popularity of casinos boomed all across Australia, gambling was still largely prohibited in Victoria by the start of the 1990s. That was until Joan Kirner succeeded against anti-gambling John Cain as the Premier of Victoria which allowed for the establishment of pokies venues across the state.
2001: Parliament Passes the Interactive Gambling Act
As the first online casinos began to emerge, the Australian government saw the need for regulation against the potential dangers of online gambling. The result was the Interactive Gambling Act which prevents Australian-based online casinos from offering their services to Australian citizens, but Aussie punters are still able to enjoy online casinos based offshore.