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The history of bookmakers

Australia’s bookmaker organisations have a rich and varied history, from humble beginnings to major developments halfway through the 20th century. We take a look at the origins of bookies in our country and how everything began and evolved into the industry we know today.

Australian bookmakers – a brief history

The advent of radio and telephones in Australia opened the door for starting price bookies. Until 1931 Aussies were legally only allowed to make a bet with an on course bookie. However, from 1931 we saw the rise of the SP bookie throughout Australia.

Starting price bookies would often hang around pubs and clubs, conducting their business from there. Punters would not be able to get a fixed price on their bet until after the race was run, at which point the bookie would be told, via an intermediary – or runner – the average odds of each horse from a range of on course bookies.

Starting price bookies were technically illegal in Australia but flourished none the less thanks to society’s needs at the time and police corruption. One of Australia’s most colourful underworld identities through the late 1970s and 1980s, George Freeman, was reputedly an SP bookie.

From there the government got involved because as they saw it, they were missing out on massive amounts of income that could bed taxed, so they decided to corner the industry by opening TAB’s. The industry slowly evolved into privatisation and online and mobile betting to form where we are now and how we bet.

Who was the first corporate bookmaker?

The year 1961 first saw the Victorian Government regulate betting with the introduction of the Totalisator Agency Board, or TAB, an off course betting shop that was accordingly taxed and monies funnelled back into the racing industry. The TAB began to spread across Australia, controlled by the government of each state. Slowly though, each state began to sell off the TAB to private companies.

The TAB has become the following entities:

1993 saw the licencing of Australia’s first non-government run or owned sports bookmaker. SportsBet was a small bookmaker based in Darwin before it was bought by gambling magnate Matthew Tripp in 2005. The Northern Territory has become a gold mine for bookmakers, with the government giving out loads of licenses to corporate and online bookies.

What was the first online bookmaker?

1996 was the year Centrebet went live online as Australia’s first online bookie. However, at this time, the internet in Australia was still in its infancy, so online betting was not as wildly popular as it would become.

2001 saw the Australian Government pass the Interactive Gambling Act 2001. This Act prohibited online gambling operators to offer real money, interactive gambling to Australian residents.

2008 was the year a High Court ruling was passed that allowed online bookies licensed in the Northern Territory to expand their advertising to reach out with the broader Australian community.

Bookmaker laws in Australia

To operate legally as a bookmaker in Australia you must be licensed by an Australian state or territory, with most of the big online betting sites in Australia boasting the Northern Territory Gambling Commission tick of approval. It is illegal to hold an overseas bookie license and then market your product to Australians.

The other big change which came into effect in Australia on May 26, 2019, was a line in the National Gambling Framework, which effectively banned bonus bets or new account incentives in Australia. This means Aussies can no longer take advantage of bookie sign up bonus offers or anything else that could be deemed an incentive to open an account.

Australian regulated bookmakers

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Now the art of making a bet has been made simple and convenient since the dawn of online and mobile betting, we like to trust the following online bookies with our action. We trust these bookies because they have a massive reputation in the industry for fairness, player safety, generous sign up bonuses and regular promotions.

Check out each site for their sign up bonuses, but beware – some sign up bonuses are not applicable to residents of Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia or Western Australia, due to those states’ strict gambling laws.

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