During the pandemic outbreak, the Australian casino industry saw a significant drop in revenue. The land-based casinos were among the first to close during the lockdown. Other large indoor sporting events, as well as associated betting, were also canceled. Even in the absence of these mandated closures, other factors were already working against traditional casinos, including the increasing preference for virtual or digital-based casinos.
The number of foreign visitors to Australian casinos remained low even after the borders were reopened. Local visitors were also less likely to visit land-based casinos during the post-pandemic period and many facilities were forced to operate at a reduced capacity.
Despite the setbacks, professionals within the gambling niche are still optimistic about the future of the Australian casino industry, believing the government is taking steps to legalize online gambling. Among the proactive players in Australia’s expansive gambling industry is Crown Resorts, Australia’s largest gambling enterprise, worth more than $8.7 billion. The firm recently completed the stunning Crown Sydney skyscraper, becoming the tallest building in Sydney.
The complex includes a casino, a hotel, and luxury residential apartments. On the other hand, Crown Resorts’ gambling establishment recently became the subject of an investigation by the NSW Liquor and Gaming Commission. The regulatory body suspended the casino’s license in December 2020 due to the alleged money laundering. As a result, the casino is currently closed, Its operating license is still suspended indefinitely. Crown Resorts has stated that they expect the casino to open in 2022.
In the past, there have been concerted attempts at a corporate takeover of Crown Resorts Limited. Blackstone Group, an American private equity firm, successfully sealed a Crown Resorts takeover bid for A$8.9 billion in February 2022. The takeover terms stipulated that every Crown shareholder would be compensated A$13.10 for every owned share. The company’s aggressive expansion is expected to continue under the new ownership.
Another significant change is occurring on the digital side of the casino industry. Aristocrat, an Australian slot machine manufacturer, has been relentless in its pursuit of Playtech, a globally renowned gambling software provider. Since 2021, Aristocrat has made several offers, all of which have been rejected by Playtech. The most recent and most significant takeover bid, valued at $3.7 billion, failed at the start of 2022. If Aristocrat is successful in its takeover in the near future, the transaction has the potential to be one of the most significant acquisitions in the industry’s history.
The Consistent Rise of Online Gambling in Australia
While casino attendance was down during the pandemic, online gambling grew steadily (source: truebluecasinos.org). During the lockdown, online gambling rates nearly quadrupled compared to pre-pandemic levels.
The majority of these profits came from sports betting. Betting activity increased on popular events such as football, cricket, and horse racing. Most online gambling activity in Australia is governed and regulated by the Interactive Gambling Act (2001).
Traditional online casino games are still prohibited in Australia. Other than sports betting, online gamblers have few options. Unfortunately, some gamble on less trustworthy websites in foreign countries due to a lack of variety in Australian online gaming. The Interactive Gambling Act (2001) makes it illegal for these websites to provide services to Australians. The Act unequivocally states that Australians are not permitted to gamble there unless they have the necessary licenses. Many people do it anyway.
Regional gambling authorities in Australia have taken steps to combat this trend. These authorities make an effort to discourage residents from visiting these websites. They warn that access to poker, slots, scratchies, and other games is tempting. However, using an unlicensed site puts them in grave danger.
Visitors to such websites file numerous complaints with the Australian Communications and Media Authority. Many Australians launching the complaints were unaware they were using unauthorized services. The most common complaint is the inability to withdraw any winnings. There have also been reports of players’ bank or credit card data being used to make unauthorized withdrawals or payments.
What Does the Future Hold for Casinos and Online Gambling in Australia?
In Australia, there is an apparent demand for online gaming and citizens have easy access to a wide range of different types of gambling. In contrast to the United States, where individual state laws can vary greatly from one another, the legal framework that governs gambling in Australia is clearly defined.
In Australia, gambling is classified into four categories:
- Land-based casinos: These establishments offer access to games such as poker, blackjack, and others.
- Slot machines: Colloquially known as “pokies,” are electronic gaming machines. These machines can be found in a variety of locations other than casinos.
- Lotteries: These are traditional randomized lotteries.
- Sports betting: In-person or online wagering on various sporting events.
The pandemic has had an impact on all of these categories. Intermittent lockdowns in many parts of Australia had multiple effects on various industries. Some businesses have thrived, while others have seen a significant decrease in their customer base.
It’s quite revealing that so many people often go out of their way to find shady online casinos. Because of the pandemic, alternatives to land-based casinos are on the rise. The popularity of online sports betting cannot be denied, as the pandemic has made it a major attraction in the Australian gambling industry. Once the pandemic is over, land-based casinos are expected to rebound. If gambling trends during the pandemic are any indication, the online casino industry isn’t going anywhere.