What Constitutes Illegal Gambling in NSW?

Information on this page was reviewed by a specialist defence lawyer before being published. Click to read more.

Did you know that tossing two coins together and betting money on which side up they will land is illegal? The only defence to playing such a game is not knowing that it was illegal, and after reading that last sentence, you can’t use that excuse.

Two-up is a form of illegal gambling in NSW, forbidden by law except on designated commemorative days and, for some reason, in Broken Hill. It even has its own Act, the Gambling (Two Up) Act.

Why is an otherwise outlawed gambling activity chosen as a way to remember those who lost their lives fighting in World War One and Two?

If it is an acceptable way to celebrate the sacrifices and courage of Australian soldiers why are you liable for a $5,500 fine and/or 12 months imprisonment on any other day of the year?

Australia’s preoccupation with gambling is no surprise. According to one study, Australia has the highest gambling rate in the world, with more than 80 per cent of adults participating in this once-illegal activity.

How does a country which ranks 53rd in population come first with gambling machines, owning a whopping 20 per cent of the worlds supply?

The first legal casino in Australia opened in 1973, and soon, state governments began to see the benefits in gambling – taxing the gambling corporations gave them a nice slice in the profits.

Although all forms of gambling were considered contrary to public policy, our laws now provide for a wide scope of legal gambling, including online.

But acting outside the law could be costly – organizing, promoting or participating in illegal gambling activities could have you out of pocket – and not just from losing.

Fines for gambling offences depend on the severity of the offence and can run well into the thousands.

While online gambling is legal, it is an offence, ‘in-play’ betting, where betting can occur after an event has already started, is not permitted. Nor are ‘instant win’ online lotteries legal.

In 2001, the Australian Government passed the Interactive Gaming Act which made it an offence to offer or advertise real money in online interactive services to Australian residents.

But these laws don’t target average citizens who plays the games, and you can’t be punished just for gambling online.

In more traditional forms of gambling in NSW, you cannot bet on any event or contingency with a bookmaker unless you are present at a licensed racecourse. Even at a racecourse you can only bet on a horse race, harness race, greyhound race or declared betting event.

It is illegal to bet on any horse race, harness race or greyhound race in Australia if the bet is made by phone, electronically, by subscription TV or any other online communication system and the bet is made with another person who is not a legal bookmaker or authorized to conduct the betting.

The maximum penalty is a $5,500 fine and/or a 12 month prison sentence.

Betting on any contingency or event is not allowed unless it is made with a bookmaker and you are present at a racecourse.

Organising, selling or participating in illegal gambling in NSW could also cost you up to $5,500 and 12 months in jail. If this is your second (or subsequent) offence for organising unlawful gambling, the maximum penalty doubles.

Cheating is also dealt with seriously by the law. It includes the fraudulent use of any instrument to obtain money or advantage for yourself or anyone else and carries a maximum fine of $11,000 as well as a possible 2-year stint in jail.

If you have been charged with a serious gambling offence, you should speak to an experienced lawyer, as the consequences for gambling could be severe. Click here for more information on illegal gambling in NSW or to see how we could help you.

Last updated on

Receive all of our articles weekly


Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist with 25 years of experience as a Criminal Defence Lawyer. He is the Principal of Sydney Criminal Lawyers®.

Your Opinion Matters