Lawful and Unlawful Gambling in the ACT
Which forms of gambling are lawful in the ACT
The only forms of gambling that are lawful in the ACT are those that are expressly permitted by a Territory law. This is because the Unlawful Gambling Act 2009 (the Act) makes all gambling unlawful unless it is permitted under the Act or another territory law.
The Act expressly provides for private gaming, two-up on Anzac Day, approved charitable gaming and the declaration of exempt or unlawful games (see below). Other Acts authorise casino gaming, gaming machines, wagering and lotteries.
Private and social gaming, such as playing a game of poker or blackjack at home with friends, is lawful in the ACT. While bets can be made on these private games, there are restrictions to ensure that commercial gambling is not operated under the guise of “private” gaming.
- For private games to be lawful they must be conducted in the person’s home. It is not lawful to hold private games in public places such as hotels, clubs, community halls, cafes or restaurants.
- Private games cannot be conducted for a commercial purpose. For example, it is not lawful to charge a fee to participate in a private game.
Two-up is permitted on Anzac Day provided that:
- all of the persons involved in the game are 18 years or older;
- the owner or person in charge of the place where the game is conducted has given their permission; and
- there is no charge, commission or fee (except where the charge, commission or fee is to raise funds for a charitable purpose).
If two-up on Anzac Day is used to raise funds for a charitable purpose then all funds raised must be given in their entirety to the nominated charitable purpose. Records must also be kept showing how much was raised, who received the funds, how much the recipient was given and when the recipient was provided the funds.
Approved Charitable Gaming
The Unlawful Gambling Act 2009 provides for restricted charitable gaming. Charitable organisations can hold fundraising gaming nights under an approval system. More information can be found on the Charitable Gaming Factsheet (PDF 174KB). Charitable organisations will need to submit an Application for Approval to Conduct a Game (PDF 70KB) which also attracts a fee. As at 1 July 2015, the fee to conduct Charitable gaming is $53.00.
Games that have been declared lawful
To provide certainty about what is permitted, some common non-gambling games have been expressly declared as lawful games by the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission (the Commission). Provided nothing is risked or staked (eg bet) by a participant or someone else on the game (except for entry fees or prizes) the following games are lawful in the ACT:
- any game conducted in a tournament format (except those declared as unlawful games);
- games or activities ordinarily found at fairs, fetes or shows that are designed for recreational or entertainment purposes and that predominantly require skill to obtain any reward;
- games commonly known as arcade and amusement games, including games known as ‘skill testers’; and
- chocolate Wheel (and any version or variation) if the prizes are goods or services and not cash or cash equivalents.
Which games are unlawful in the ACT
The Commission has declared certain games as unlawful games. These games include:
- Poker and all of its variants;
- American Roulette or Roulette;
- Money Wheel or Big Six where the prizes are money or cash equivalents;
- Baccarat, Mini-Baccarat or Puntobanco;
- Blackjack, Twenty-one or Pontoon;
- Pai Gow;
- Sic Bo or Big and Small and all of its variants; and
These games can only be played in a person’s home (see private gaming above) or at the casino which is subject to strict regulatory controls.
Frequently asked questions
Question: Are chess, board games, wargames and other forms of tournaments involving games lawful?
Answer: Yes, most of these types of tournaments are lawful. They are only unlawful if something is risked or staked (other than an entry fee or prize) on the game or if the game itself is a declared unlawful game.
Question: Are trivia nights ok?
Answer: Trivia nights that do not involve gambling are permitted.
Question: Are poker tournaments in hotels and clubs lawful in the ACT?
Answer: No, the Commission has declared poker an unlawful game. This means that poker tournaments are unlawful in the ACT except at the casino.
Question: Does the Unlawful Gambling Act 2009 affect casino gaming, gaming machine activity and lotteries?
Answer: No, casino gaming is approved under the Casino Control Act 2006, gaming machine activity at clubs, hotels and taverns is approved under the Gaming Machine Act 2004 and lotteries are approved under the Lotteries Act 1964.
Where to get more information
For more information on the development of the Unlawful Gambling Act 2009 please refer to the Commission's August 2009 policy paper on the Review of the Unlawful Games Act 1984.