Australia has one of the highest rates of gambling in the world with an estimated four in five Aussies taking part in this leisure activity on a regular basis. Whether this is scratch cards or casinos, having a punt is part of our psyche.
Cities like Sydney cater well for this high level of demand offering a vast range of venues where locals and tourists can partake in gaming such as pokies, racing, sports betting and poker.
Licensed gambling venues, betting shops (or TABs) and online bookmakers do a good trade in the Harbour City and, in this guide, we take a look at what kinds of gambling are popular in Sydney. We also take a look at the various venues you can visit to get a taste of this popular scene.
- 1 Gambling Laws in Sydney
- 2 Gambling Scene in Sydney
- 3 Casinos
- 4 Race Courses
- 5 Lotteries & Kenos
- 6 Poker
- 7 Bingo
- 8 Electronic Gaming Machines (‘Pokies’/Slots)
- 9 Other
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Gambling Laws in Sydney
Gambling in Sydney is governed by the New South Wales Betting and Racing Act 1998 and legalises wagering at licensed venues through licensed bookmakers.
Change in federal laws were introduced in 2016 to clamp down on unlicensed online providers of gambling services. This included the hugely popular online poker markets such as PokerStars, 888poker and PokerParty all of whom have closed down their web presence in Australia.
The closure of these sites has caused quite a stir and the estimated 130,000 regular players are lobbing government to repeal this act. The legislation does not make it an offense to play poker online for money but it does make it illegal to provide these services without a license. As yet, no providers of online poker gaming have a license.
Though online poker is now illegal in Australia, you can use the internet for sport betting and lotteries and you can play poker for money at member clubs as well as the city’s casino, Star.
Gambling Scene in Sydney
The government of New South Wales collects an income of around $1 billion each year from poker machines and $1.6 billion from other sources of gambling. Only Nevada, U.S.A has more gambling machines than New South Wales
The state has a long affinity with gambling in general and was the host to Australia’s first official race meet which occurred at Hyde Park, Sydney in 1810. Race meetings continued to be held in the city’s central park until 1825 when the Turf Club was established at Bellevue.
Sydney was also the first city in Australia to operate legalised poker machines. Affectionately known as ‘pokies’, the first such machines were introduced in 1956.
The Syndey Cup was also first hosted in the city as well as being home to the first national lottery in 1881.
The population of New South Wales favours the lotteries as their top punt with 41% of the state’s residents taking part. Scratch tickets come second at 28%, pokies at 27% followed by:
- Horse/Greyhound racing – 24%
- Keno – 14%
- Sports betting – 8%
- Casino table games – 7%
- Private card games – 3%
- Bingo – 3%
- Pokies style games online – 2%
80 Pyrmont St, Pyrmont NSW 2009
Situated with views across Darling Harbour in the Pyrmont Bay Park area of the city, the Star Casino is the country’s second largest casino (Melbourne’s Crown Casino takes the title). Currently the only licensed casino in New South Wales, the Star has an exclusivity deal with the authorities.
The Star has two gaming floors, the general entry area on the first floor and the VIP high rollers suite, the Sovereign Room, on the third floor. The latter also includes the junket players area, the Inner Sanctum, where bets range from $100 to $500,000.
The general access floor is split into three main zones with electronic gaming, table gaming and poker being the dominant areas. There are 40 poker tables at the Star.
A popular venue in the city for both tourists and business visitors, the Star attracts also attracts a crowd of regular players.
As a premium entertainment establishment, the Star runs a full calendar of events to keep members and visitors through the doors and they host a range of new casino games, challenges and tournaments.
The Star Casino is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Crown Sydney (coming Soon)
Due to open in 2020, the Crown will become the city’s second legalised casino. Unlike the Star it is believed that the Crown will operate a members only policy and initially focus on table gaming as opposed to electronic gaming.
Currently under construction in the Bangaroo area of the city, the completed design will include a hotel and leisure complex and stand at a full 75 storeys tall, becoming Sydney’s second tallest building (the Sydney Tower will still hold this title).
All of the details of the horse racecourses in the city can be found on the pages of the Australian Turf Club.
King Street, Canterbury NSW 2193
Located in the west of the city, Canterbury Park is renowned for its midweek meets that get you up close to the action. Most meets occur on Wednesdays with summer night racing on Fridays.
Admission is free and you can use the TAB facilities on site.
Alison Rd, Randwick NSW 2031
Leased by the Australian Turf Club (ATF), Royal Randwick is known as ‘Headquarters’ by punters and is the home to horse racing events in the east of Sydney.
The course is the oldest of its kind in the city, originally opening for racing in 1833. Originally known as just ‘Randwick’, the addition of the prefix ‘Royal’ was added in 1992 when Queen Elizabeth II visited the course and granted permission for the course’s officiation as a Royal racecourse.
A great number of Australia’s premier races are held at Royal Randwick including the Australian Derby, the Epsom Handicap and the Sydney Cup.
James Ruse Dr, Rosehill NSW 214
Another ATF racecourse, Rosehill is situated to the west of Sydney and hosts premier events such as the world’s richest race, the ‘Golden Slipper’; a $3.5 million race that attracts some of the finest two year old gallopers.
Opened in 1885, Rosehill has a track circumference of 6,719 ft. (2,048m) with a home straight of 408m. Along with Royal Randwick, Rosehill is one of Australia’s top horse racing venues and holds a year-round fixtures list.
Depending on the event, general admission prices cost from $15 and there are TAB facilities on site. Admission is free during the week and on public holidays.
Governor Macquarie Drive, Warwick Farm NSW 2170
Located about 30km to the south west of the city, Warwick Farm racecourse was opened in 1889 and hosts a selection of meets throughout the year.
Standard Saturday racing admission costs $5 and there are TAB facilities on site.
Wentworth Park Sporting Complex, 3 Wentworth Park Rd, Glebe NSW 2037
Situated right in the heart of the city, Wentworth Park is just a stone’s throw from Sydney Fish Market bordering Blackwattle Bay.
The venue opened in 1932 and has been used as a greyhound racing track ever since. Wentworth also holds other sporting events including rugby league, soccer and rugby union.
There is a full calendar of racing every Wednesday and Saturday nights with some feature races being held throughout the year.
There are TAB operators on site to take your bets and plenty of good facilities including a bar, bistro and lounge.
General admission is charged at $6 and race nights are as follows:
- Saturday: Gates open at 5.30pm, First Race at 7.25pm, Last Race at 10.30pm (approx.)
- Wednesday: Gates open at 5.30pm, First Race at 7.00pm, Last Race at 10.30pm (approx.)
Richmond Race Club
312 Londonderry Rd, Richmond NSW 275
60km to the west of Sydney is the Richmond Race Club, the oldest greyhound track in the area, Originally granted a Galloping and Trotting License in 1911, Richmond holds 104 meetings every year being held on a Wednesday afternoon and Friday evening.
The complex has a good bar and bistro on site as well as TAB operators to take your bets.
General admission is charged at $7
Lotteries & Kenos
The National Australian Lottery holds regularly weekly draws for some big cash prizes. Run by The Lott (Tatts Group), you can find full details of all the draws including prize breakdowns on the Official Lottery website.
The Lott is the only government licensed lottery in Australia.
In a nutshell, the main lotteries are:
- Monday & Wednesday Lotto (Mon & Weds): $1 million prize fund
- Set for Life (Daily): $20k a month for 20 years
- Oz Lotto (Tues): $40 million
- Power Ball (Thurs): $3 million
- Saturday Pools (Sat): Estimated around $365k
- Tatts Lotto (Sat): $4 million
- Super Jackpot & Mega Jackpot (Any Day): Over $4 million and $5 million respectively.
Lotto tickets and scratch cards can be purchased from online retailers as well as via Tatts outlets.
Keno, a lottery based game often played live, is another popular game in Sydney with hotels, clubs hosting Keno games.
You can find a licensed venue where you can play Keno using the official website.
80 Pyrmont St, Pyrmont NSW 2009
You can read up more about the Star Casino under the ‘Casinos’ section above but as well as electronic poker machines/pokies, there are 40 live poker tables at the Star.
The casino is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and there is a high rollers gaming area.
121-133 Prairie Vale Road, Bossley Park, NSW 2176
A members only venue, Club Marconi is a vast complex of sporting facilities including 5 soccer fields, 5 netball courts, squash, tennis, bocce and snooker gaming areas. The club was founded in the late 1950s by a confederation of Italian Australians (hence the name, ‘Marconi’).
With more than 25,000 members representing over 18 different nationalities the Marconi is a real gem on the social gaming scene.
As well as full Keno and TAB facilities, Club Marconi also hosts regular poker nights as well as holding tournaments and events. Full details of buy ins and event schedules can be found via the Poker Palace website.
Around 3% of the nation regularly wagers on the bingo and Sydney caters well for the demand of this popular pastime.
The Bingo Club website has full details of all the venues around the city that host bingo nights and you can find somewhere for every day of the week, even on a Sunday.
The most popular venue is perhaps Sydneys Bingo Lounge which holds events on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Situated about 30 minutes outside of the CBD, games are usually held from 11am (and 7pm on Tuesday and Thursday).
Prizes vary by location with some big cash wins available as well as other prizes including vouchers and physical goods or services.
Electronic Gaming Machines (‘Pokies’/Slots)
Australia has the 6th highest number of electronic gaming machines (EGMs) in the world with around 4% of the population regularly gambling using these devices. New South Wales has around 100,000 EGMs which accounts for roughly half of Australia’s total amount.
You can find electronic gaming machines in most pubs and bars as well as in social clubs and the city’s only casino (see ‘Star Casino’, above).
City Tattersalls Club
A members only social club, City Tattersalls was founded in 1895 by a group of bookmakers. The club offers a variety of gaming including TAB’s Trackside, Keno and some card games. There are several bars at the club with the Sports Bar and TAB/Keno bar offering your best chance of some good gambling opportunities.
City of Sydney RSL
Another members only club offering Keno and TAB facilities, you can find the City of Sydney RSL on George Street.
Gaming, Racing & Wagering Australia – Annual Expo
The Gaming, Racing & Wagering Australia (GRWA) conference is held annually in Sydney with the next event being held in August 2018.
A nationwide meet up for anyone involved in the gambling world in Australia, you can find further information via their website.
Featured image via Pixabay.