Two Senators are Fighting for Online Poker in Australia1 year ago
Australian senators David Leyonhjelm and Cory Bernardi addressed the Senate’s Environment and Communications References Committee (ECRC) to argue for online poker.
In his statements, Leyonhjelm argued that the links between online poker and "Ludomania" (or gambling addiction) have been exaggerated by opponents, pointing to studies that claim online poker shows one of the lowest rates of addictive behavior among gambling activities.
In his address, he detailed why online poker is a low-risk form of gambling, concluding:
“Over the medium term, poker is far more a game of skill and strategy than luck and chance.”
Leyonhjelm admitted correlation (though not causation) between poker and compulsive gambling, however, he argues that is the most compelling reason to regulate online poker.
“The general principle here is that, rather than reflexively banning activities that include some risks and potential for harm, they can be legalized, regulated, monitored and of course taxed. And the fact is, as many submissions to the inquiry pointed out, banning the provision of online poker services within Australia will not prevent Australians from playing poker online. They will simply play on sites overseas where they are exposed to greater risk.”
The senator ended his address by offering the United Kingdom's policy as a suitable model for Australia.
“... the government should closely follow the model of [The UK Gambling Commission's] approach, which involves issuing licenses specific to each kind of gambling, enables it to address risks to gamblers, sport and consolidated revenue from gambling in a logical and effective manner.”
Australian players have passionate allies in the Senate but they are fighting an uphill battle.
Besides the fact that public perception links online poker to common slot machines (or "pokies" as the locals call them), Leyonhjelm and Bernardi are both "crossbench" senators, meaning they have little power to drive a legislation as big as this one, however, their arguments are moving other Senators to their position.
The public backlash against "pokies" produced the IGA which created a de facto online poker ban earlier this year.
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