Australia Passes Bill Banning Online Poker
On Wednesday morning, Australia’s Senate passed the Interactive Gaming Amendment Bill 2016, which places a nationwide ban on online casino and poker services.
This comes just a week after the Senate Environment and Communications References Committee held the Participation of Australians in Online Poker hearing. During the hearing, local online poker players and others involved in the industry argued for poker to be excluded from a national internet gaming ban.
Law to Take Effect Soon
The bill was originally introduced by Human Services Minister Alan Tudge. The ban will take effect sometime within the next 30 days. The new law will ban unlicensed online casino and poker operators from targeting players and customers in Australia. Neither the country’s current iGaming framework nor the new bill has any provisions that allow iGaming companies to apply for licenses from local regulators. So, there are no legal route operators may take if they wish to operate within the Australian market.
Some thought the Senate might wait until mid-September to come to a decision. At that point, a report including results from an online poker inquiry that took place earlier in the summer is expected to come down. The inquiry wanted poker players or other involved parties to argue about whether online poker should be banned from the country.
Leyonhjelm Argues for Regulation
Senator David Leyonhjelm has been fighting the efforts to ban online poker since the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill was introduced in November. Instead of banning poker and online casino games outright, Leyonhjelm says that Australia would benefit much more from sparing online poker from a ban and regulating it instead.
The initial bill was brought forth in an effort to protect customers from becoming gambling addicts and other problems related to uncontrolled gambling. Leyonhjelm has said repeatedly that poker should be classified on its own rather than lumped in with other casino games because it requires skill rather than blind luck. Leyonhjelm has also said that a regulated online market with the necessary monitoring tools and taxation would benefit Australia much more than a ban would.
ISP blocking of unlicensed operators targeting Australian players was considered, but will not be implemented as a part of the new ban. Several jurisdictions have deployed that approach in an attempt to regulate their local markets. However, it hasn’t been particularly effective in rooting out the problem.
IGaming operators are expected to quickly leave the market even though the ban will not take place for several weeks. PokerStars already told Australian customers that it is going to leave the market immediately after the signing of the bill into law. 888poker, Gaming Innovation Group, and 32Red have already left the market.
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