Online poker is a game of wits and courage enjoyed by thousands of people across Australia but which is now at risk of being banned by the Federal Government. We’re calling on all Australians that want to defend their right to play poker online to lend us their support.
The Australian Online Poker Alliance is petitioning parliament to ensure that online poker isn’t an accidental casualty of the 'Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill (2016)'. The legislation will ban online gaming sites that are not locally licensed in an attempt to protect Australian citizens.
While the intention is admirable, the way in which the Bill is currently drafted will mean the end for online poker in Australia. Why? The overwhelming majority of online poker websites used by Australians are run by legitimate companies that are licensed elsewhere in the world. There are no poker operators licensed domestically in Australia and current legislation does not provide any way for these overseas operators to be licensed and provide secure services to Australian players.
What will happen is that the large public operators that are listed on the London and New York stock exchanges, which are licensed by regulators who impose strict customer protections, fraud and anti-money laundering measures, will be forced to withdraw from the market. The legislation will leave the risky, unregulated offshore operators as the only option for players, creating an unsafe poker environment.
The Australian Online Poker Alliance is asking the government to amend the Bill to stipulate the exclusion of online poker until a clear avenue for these legitimate overseas operators to be licensed in Australia is established.
As consenting adults, it should be our right to be able to play poker safely and securely with responsible and reputable companies.
One small amendment to this Bill will go a long way to keeping online poker and the consumers who enjoy it safe in Australia.
The Australian Senate has referred the case of online poker to the Environment and Communications References Committee for an inquiry.
This gives you the chance to show the Australian Parliament what online poker means to you by making a submission.
Act fast. The deadline for submissions is 21 July 2017.
'You can make your submission online, here. Choose the blue 'upload submission' button and follow the instructions. If you're stuck for time, we've also included a pre-written Easy Submission option below. Click here for the Easy Submission.
Every inquiry has a guide called the terms of reference. Your submission should try to answer the same terms of reference from your own perspective. For the case for online poker, these are:
Choose how you want to make your submission:
Add your name, address, phone number and email to the top of the page
Add the name of the inquiry to the top of the page: Participation of Australians in online poker
Parts of your submission may be published in the Committee’s report. If you do not want this to happen, write ‘Confidential’ clearly at the top of the page. Your submission will still count.
Structure your submission using three headings; one for each term of reference. Under each heading, write about your personal opinions and experiences of online poker in Australia.
For help and support, contact details for the Committee Secretariat can be found here
If you get stuck for ideas, use these talking points. Remember, you’re an expert on you. Make your submission unique to your experiences and opinion.
the participation of Australians in online poker;
For the majority of online poker players in Australia, online poker is a form of planned, social entertainment that sits alongside many other hobbies. The beauty of our game is that anyone can learn to play at a stake that suits them, regardless of adult-age, gender, ability or financial means. Until the IGA bill is enacted, anyone who wants to spend time online with their friends and honing their skills has been able to choose internationally licensed online operators that have provided a safe, legitimate environment in which to play.
Just like subscribing to Netflix, we expect to pay for those few hours a week of entertainment. Most us do so playing micro-stakes poker, for cents and occasionally dollars, sums that are far below the minimum offered at land-based casinos.
Poker players are famously aware of risk vs reward and the benefits of sensible financial management. We take pride in practising and knowing our theory. We believe that the ability to do so is what makes a good poker player and poker a great game.
the nature and extent of any personal or social harms and benefits arising from participating in online poker; and
Poker players are also very aware of research to show that gambling can become a problem, one that is often not talked about enough. My concern is that outright prohibition could push this discussion underground, with less funding available for research and treatment and an even greater stigma attached to those who want to seek help but who are made to feel like criminals while doing so.
I and the online poker community broadly understand that properly licensed, reputable operators have a legal obligation to provide adequate responsible gaming measures and maintain the technology and support staff to deliver them. In a regulated environment, if openly approached, we can freely point troubled players to the right, trusted sources. We know these obligations include:
- Access to 24-hour first person support from operators and responsible gaming charities
- Self-exclusion mechanisms and cooling off periods, shared amongst all licensed operators
- Multi-stage age verification measures, independently audited
- Know-your-customer, anti-fraud and anti-money laundering procedures
- Player funds which are segregated from the business’ operating funds
- Software designed to detect unusual play that could indicate a player is depositing erratically or whose account may be compromised
In countries without a regulatory framework for online gaming, however, black-market operators are commonplace and easy to access. They are not obligated to re-invest profits in any of the above security mechanisms and players have no way of knowing whether their advertised claims are true.
Without tax revenue generated by licensed gambling, the Australian government also does not have the means to increase research into the potential social harms of poker or pursue these illegal operations without drawing public funds from elsewhere.
whether the current regulatory approach, in particular, the recently amended Interactive Gambling Act 2001, is a reasonable and proportionate response to those harms and benefits.
The proposed amendments to the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 are designed to help protect the minority susceptible to the harms of gambling. This goal is commendable and something the entire sector – players, operators and government – should work towards.
I believe the most effective way to achieve this sustainably, however, is through building a properly licensed and taxed, national regime. Prohibition will only push players, operators and governments further apart, with a black market waiting to fill the vacuum.
Effectively banning online poker is a disproportionate response, which does not consider the huge technological and social leaps that online gaming has made since the IGA was first drafted. Since then, countries all over the world, including the United States, United Kingdom, France, Italy and Spain - have shown that a properly licensed regime provides:
- Taxed income to fund a regulatory system for online poker
- Taxed income to support investment in other public activities and institutions
- Incentive for responsible operators to invest in player and fund protection mechanisms
- Incentive for responsible operators to invest in third party research into problem gambling
- Governments with the funds and mandate to enforce action against black market operators
- Local job opportunities with internationally-based and stable employers
- Legal grounds to collaborate with other licensed regimes around the world and consistently enhance player protection
I would like to submit this in the hope that online poker and its players do not become accidental casualties of a misworded amendment. Outright prohibition is a step back. Responsible operators licensed in reputable jurisdictions will heed this governmental regulation leaving the door wide open for those that won’t. I believe that by taking the next step and paving the way for a taxed and regulated market in Australia we all stand to gain - governments, operators, players and those the Act intends to protect.
Online poker will be prohibited in Australia. This means all of the respectable and regulated, global publicly listed companies that currently provide online poker to the Australian market will withdraw, leaving only the black-market operators that will flout the law regardless.
The Interactive Gambling Act (2001) is being amended. This is the first change to this Act since 2001. The online world has changed a lot since then and many progressive countries have enacted online poker legislation that increases consumer safety and raises tax revenue. These countries include the United States, United Kingdom, France, Spain and Italy. Previous Australian government reviews have found that the Act should be amended in order for online poker to be licensed and regulated. The government has ignored this, however, and listed online poker as a prohibited activity.
Online poker will no longer be offered legally in Australia. Any sites that continue to offer poker services to Australian players will be operating outside of the law. Without regulation, these sites will not be required to protect you, your funds, or work to fight fraud and problem gambling.
It means that as a hard-working taxpayer you no longer have the right to a hobby that you enjoy playing.
It also means that the most vulnerable in our community will be worse off. Many will still play poker but instead of large trusted companies all that will be left in the market are unscrupulous operators acting outside of the law.
It also means an amazing loss of revenue for our country. Major poker sites have made very clear their desire to be licensed and regulated in Australia. These companies are ready to contribute millions in tax revenue to Australia, which means better infrastructure, more schools, more hospitals and less of a budget deficit.
Join the fight to keep online poker in Australia! Check out our Take Action page. Tell your local MPs and senators that poker should not be illegal and that it needs to be licensed and regulated in Australia.