Online Poker in Australia Given New Life as Government Considers Reforms11 months ago
The death knell that sounded the end for online poker in Australia has stopped ringing as the Aussie government has apparently changed its tune and will consider reforms that may lead to licenses being issued to a select number of online poker operators.
PokerStars officially exited Australia this week, forced out by the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill that solidified sanctions against illegal online operators and took effect on Sept. 13. 'Stars sent emails to their Aussie customers, regrettably notifying players that "the time has sadly come to halt all real money poker play at our tables."
However, just days after the emails arrived in player in-boxes, word has come from the Australian Online Poker Alliance (AOPA) and Sen. David Leyonhjelm that the federal government looks favorably on conducting feasibility studies that could result in the regulation of onshore poker sites.
“The AOPA is extremely pleased that the Minister is looking into the feasibility of a safe, regulated online poker market in Australia,” said AOPA founder Joseph Del Duca.
Lobbying in Action
Leyonhjelm and the AOPA worked tirelessly for months in an effort to stave off enactment of the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill. A few days ago, it appeared that those endeavors had gone for naught.
But Leyonhjelm continued lobbying despite the setback of the new law, negotiating with Communications Minister Mitch Fifield. Those negotiations resulted in a small victory for the AOPA and its legions of poker players, who simply want to be able to play online poker.
"Australian online poker players deserve to have a safe, regulated environment in which to enjoy their pastime and not be forced into using offshore sites," Leyonhjelm said, adding that he will continue working with Fifield "to ensure this matter maintains momentum."
The Communications Minister will need party approval for online poker regulation to move forward. That requirement took a step in the right direction when it was revealed that Human Services Minister Alan Tudge, who previously was at the forefront of the government's pursuit against online gambling, has given his support to Fifield.
A Long Way To Go
There remains much work to be done in putting all the pieces in place before regulation comes to fruition, Leyonhjelm added. Such issues as state versus federal rights pertaining to gambling need to be ironed out.
Also yet to be scrutinized is whether operators such as PokerStars will be allowed to re-enter the country. It appears that if licenses were to be issued, poker operators would be required to call Australia their home base and be onshore.
In any event, Australian poker players who supported the AOPA and made their voices heard can find solace in the fact that the situation has taken a turn for the better.
“The poker community should be very proud of getting things to this point," said Del Duca. "We are pleased that the government is listening to these players and taking this matter seriously."
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