New Online Poker Ban in Australia2 years ago
One of the last remaining ‘grey areas’ in poker legislation seems certain to fall in favour of the ‘anti-gambling’ lobby as the Australian gets set to pass the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill after which PokerStars will join the likes of 888Poker in removing their services for Australian online poker players.
Despite strong opposition from the Australian Online Poker Alliance (AOPA), a group set up to fight for poker to be exempt from the new legislation which has targeted all internet gambling activities apart from sports betting and lotteries’ – the only ‘legal’ gambling pursuits in the country, Parliament will soon pass the new bill.
For online poker providers, this will result in huge fines for offering services to players – ‘$1.35 million a day for individuals and $6.75 million a day for organisations’ according to the Sydney Morning Herald’s report – and the prospect of massive financial hits have seen the major players in the industry react with cold feet.
888poker.com withdrew back in January of this year, explaining to players on their site that ‘Following a business re-evaluation, we'd like to inform you that 888poker's services are not being offered to players residing in Australia and therefore your account will be closed as of 01/16/2017.’
In July, Joseph Del Duca used a guest spot on the PokerStars Blog to appeal for help, stating: ‘If the poker community doesn't act now, online poker will no longer be permitted in Australia. Legislation currently sits in parliament which effectively ends online poker. Reputable, regulated sites have announced that they will withdraw from the market if this law comes into effect.
He explained the downsides of the amendment to current law being passed: ‘This puts Australian poker players at a great risk,' and with an estimated 130,000 online players in the nation he added:
"The vacuum that will be left after these large sites leave will present two choices to those that want to continue playing poker. Firstly, play exclusively in live venues or secondly, use sites that choose to deliberately operate outside the law… both of these scenarios are unfavourable outcomes for Australian players."
Despite this, vociferous opposition from many conservative groups within Australia led to bipartisan backing for the amendment, despite some politicians arguing that poker ought to be exempt, given its huge skill element compared to the other purely gambling games on offer.
Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm, the man who initiated the recent inquiry said:
"Online poker is probably the most innocent of all gambling... it's more of a game of skill, not just some sort of vacuous pull of a handle."
On the other side, the Salvation Army in Australia told the inquiry that online poker sites were guilty of emphasising an "illusion of control, despite there being little evidence to support the idea that skill is involved in long-term success.”
Unfortunately for Australian players, such short-sighted and evidently false representations seem to have held sway in the debate, leading to a bleak future for online players.
"Many of the companies that operate in Australia are publicly listed in Canada and the UK," Mr Del Duca told the Herald, "but they are now saying it's not in their interest to operate outside of the laws of Australia, and have indicated they will be leaving."
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