Online poker is a game of wits and courage enjoyed by thousands of people across Australia. But on 13th of September, online poker became an accidental casualty of the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill (2016), which became an Act passed by the Australian Government in a bid to protect Australian citizens.
While the intention was admirable, banning online gambling sites that are not locally licensed is a step back for online poker players and online gaming. We’re calling on all Australians who want to defend their right to play poker online and in safety to lend us their support.
Until the Bill was granted royal assent, the overwhelming majority of online poker websites used by Australians were run by legitimate companies that were licensed elsewhere in the world. There were, and still are, no poker operators licensed domestically in Australia. This new legislation does not provide any way for these overseas operators to become licensed and provide secure services to Australian players.
As a result of the legislation, the large public operators were forced to withdraw from the market out of respect for Australian law. These operators, many of which are listed on the London and New York stock exchanges, are licensed by regulators who impose strict customer protections, anti-fraud and anti-money laundering measures, player fund and consumer protection guidelines. As these reputable operators leave; the risky, unregulated offshore operators will move in as the only option for players. This will create an unsafe poker environment, which does not benefit the player or Australia.
The Australian Online Poker Alliance asked for 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. We’re proud to say that with the help of the Australian poker community we raised the issue to the highest level, creating a conversation that helped to launch an official inquiry named ‘Participation of Australians in online poker’.
The inquiry generated a great response from online poker players, academics, operators and concerned Australians. And, though the Bill was still passed, there might still be some light at the end of the tunnel. An amendment paving the way for online poker to be licensed in Australia may be imminent.
Following negotiations, The Liberal-National Coalition has advised that it is “favourably disposed” to reforms to the Bill, and has made instructions to examine the feasibility of Australian onshore providers obtaining licences to operate online poker. A senate enquiry is currently examining the merits of the ban on online poker and is scheduled to report in mid-October.
This is great news. As consenting adults, it should be our right to be able to play poker safely and security with responsible and reputable companies which have proven their respect for Australian law. We remain committed to the cause and optimistic that together we can make the argument for poker specific legislation.
OnlAs of 13th September, 2017, online poker is prohibited in Australia. The respectable and regulated, global publicly listed companies that provided online poker to the Australian market have withdrawn, leaving only the black-market operators that will flout the law regardless.
The Interactive Gambling Act (2001) has been amended. It means there is currently no way to create a regulatory environment where online poker companies can become licensed, pay tax, and be held to consumer and fund safety laws. This is the first change to this Act since 2001 and the online world has changed a lot since then. 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.
Online poker is no longer offered legally in Australia. If you come across any sites that continue to offer poker services to Australian players, they will be operating outside of the law and are not regulated. Without regulation, these sites will not be required to protect you, your funds, or work to fight fraud and problem gambling.
It means that hard-working tax-payers no longer have the right to their hobby. 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 are unscrupulous operators operating illegally.
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. They 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 regulate online poker in Australia! Tell your local MPs and senators that online poker should not be illegal. Share the benefits of a safe, regulated online marketplace in Australia. And play responsibly.