Gambling is huge business in Australia. Whether it’s playing the pokies at the local pubs and clubs, betting on the ponies at Flemington Racecourse, or logging into an online gambling site to spin the virtual roulette wheel, statistics show that more than 80% of adult Aussies enjoy some form of wagering.
South Australia’s Treasurer, Tom Koutsantonis, says it’s about time the Federal Government start taxing online gambling the same as it does the traditional, land-based variety.
Mr. Koutsantonis has a lot of budget matters on his plate at the moment. On Thursday, the SA Treasurer released a new budget plan for the 2015-16 session that includes multiple issues regarding state tax reform, namely the continuance of the state payroll tax rebate.
However, another topic arose in the release; one that Mr. Koutsantonis has become more and more passionate about as the state’s gambling revenue continues to wan. He said that the subject of taxing online gambling has finally received national attention as the State Government is leading discussions on how best to go about it.
Online Gambling Tax: Not About the Money
According to The Perth Times, the SA Treasurer isn’t just trying to add money to the government’s coffers. He says online gambling regulations are necessary to maintain proper oversight of an industry that is currently running without any form of supervision.
Mr. Koutsantonis fears that the already relatively high rate of gambling addiction throughout the nation could escalate out of control. He said his main concern is that the state puts so much effort into the oversight of licensed gambling venues, that he fears the lack of a national response to internet wagering activities could ruin countless lives.
“Our pubs and clubs spend a lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of effort in harm minimisation measures,” said the SA Treasurer. “Someone gambling at home … there’s no one there to stop them.”
Mr. Koutsantonis made it clear that, “I’m not after the revenue here, the Commonwealth can keep it. What I’m after is a harmonised approach to making sure there aren’t people destroying their families because of a gambling problem and they’re doing it online.”
Annual Gambling Tax Revenue Declines in SA
Taxes on the land-based gambling industry throughout SA (and much of Australia as a whole) make up a significant portion of the state’s annual revenue. But in recent years, the amount generated by licensed gambling activities has been on a steady decline.
Poker machines throughout pubs, clubs and hotels in South Australia are estimated to bring in $304 million in the next 12 months, down from nearly $400 million in 2010. While some would like to attribute the reduction towards gamblers becoming more responsible, hotel owners are adamant that just as many wagers are still being placed, but in an unsupervised online gambling setting.
Online Gambling Laws in South Australia
Although online gambling is not legal in South Australia, it’s not exactly illegal, either. The law states that online gambling sites are not permitted to accept Australian players. However, players are in no way forbidden to gamble online at sites operated outside of Australia.
Furthermore, the government does nothing to impede offshore operators so long as they are operating a legitimate business (i.e. no consumer complaints of unpaid winnings). Thus the countless Australian dollars being wagered at online gambling sites are not being taxed, and players are not being supervised to prevent developing or contributing to an addiction.