ICE Asia panel: Casino closures led to 140% online gambling growth in Australia

Online gambling in Australia has grown 140% during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a regulator.

Speaking at ICE Asia Digital, Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation (OLGR) Queensland executive director, Michael Sarquis, said the closure of all licensed gambling venues in March brought about an online spike in the country.

But unregulated online gambling remains a concern.

Sarquis said: “The COVID-19 impact was quite significant across both the land-based and online industry, with a significant growth in online gambling during this period of 140%.

“It remains to be seen if online arrangements are likely to continue at that level. The rise will have a significant impact for how we regulate in the future, with online gambling advertisement regulations already strengthened.

“For land-based operators, it’s had an adverse impact which will add to the problems for some of those companies.

“While regulated online wagering has been growing significantly in Australia, there has been concern around growth in unregulated online gambling. Our Government has been very active in controlling it; however, it continues to be a major challenge.”

Casinos in Australia began reopening in early June, with Star Entertainment Group resuming operations at The Star Sydney, after all casinos in the countries were closed on 23 March.

However, Sarquis believes the pandemic has “accelerated” the move to a cashless system in the gambling industry.

He added: “We always saw a move to a more cashless arrangement over time but the pandemic has accelerated the process.

“No doubt this will impact how gambling will be conducted. It’s a topic we examined anyway but the whole pandemic will accelerate cashless payments in gambling.”

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