Online Poker Drawing Dead in Australia
It’s a disappointing day for the fans of online poker in Australia as it would appear their days are numbered being able to play at any of the reputable poker sites. Yesterday, as part of an update to the Internet Gambling Amendment Bill, the Australian Senate voted to include online poker in the ban on online gambling.
The Fight to Keep Legal Gambling
This is a crushing blow to the country’s poker players, who had been very vocal in trying to convince politicians that poker should be exempt from the amendment. In a similar move to the United States, an advisory group was formed, and that group, the Australian Online Poker Alliance, was invited to speak in front of a committee researching the impact of the bill. This group, along with other industry experts, attempted to explain that sending the online gambling business underground would ultimately make it harder to sniff out problem gamblers and shady operator practices, however, in the end, the Senate decided to keep the poker ban in place.
The amendment to the original Internet Gambling Act is standard; the bill originally enacted in 2001 had some loopholes that needed closing given the vast changes in the Internet landscape over the last 15 years. However, once online poker made an appearance in the text of the amendment, the argument over whether or not poker is a game of skill or chance came to the forefront. This is a debate that has raged on around the world since the game first started; there is no general consensus, and there isn’t likely to be one anytime soon.
How the Bill Came About
Poker was not the single target of this amendment. It was originally written to stop people from gambling on sports in-play from their phones, a technology that didn’t exist when the laws were originally written. With the overwhelming majority of the Senate voting to approve the amendment as it is written, there isn’t much more that poker players or operators can do to save their game.
The bill passed the first vote back in March 2017, and at that point, with the writing on the wall, many of the operators including giants 888 decided to close up shop and stop accepting Australian players. Similarly to the events of 2006 in the United States, Pokerstars decided they would stick it out until the decision was final. While there has been no comment from PokerStars on this news, back in March the company did allude to the fact that if the amendment was passed in full, they too would likely be leaving the market.
The new law states that sites wishing to accept Australian players will need to be regulated and licensed. The issue is that there is currently no licensing process in place for companies even to apply. Furthermore, any site found to be accepting online poker players from the country will be fined 6.75 Million AUD per day.
So, What Does This Mean for Players?
Well, the legitimate sites have 30 days to close down their operations and refund player money. In the meantime, unlicensed sites (like America’s Card Room) will likely swoop in with some promotions to try to attract homeless Australian poker players. These sites will be doing so illegally, but that hasn’t stopped them from taking U.S. players since Black Friday in 2011. As for the fate of the Aussie Millions, the premier poker event in that country, it is difficult to say today what the impact will be on the size of that event.
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