As legislation tightens, online poker giants will soon cease to operate in Australia, where the sector was unregulated until now.
Australia.- Online poker wasn’t too big of a deal when gambling legislation was written in 2001 and, even being illegal in the country, the segment’s giants have found their way to operate in the country through a grey area. However, as the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill gets closer to being passed by the Parliament, operators are set to shut down their set ups in Australia.
PokerStars, Poker Party and 888Poker are some of the companies that have been providing online poker to up to 130k Australian players for years. However, the new laws’ penalties for unlicensed gambling operations (which go up to a daily US$1.07 million for individuals and US$6.75 million for organisations) is soon to end that scenario, theage.com.au reports.
Despite the bipartisan agree on the law, poker players are up to fight the new amendment and a lobby group has been created to protect the game from the heavy restrictions and to -eventually- get poker providers to get licensed in Australia. Legal gambling would ramp up tax revenue and consumer protection and, according to the lobbyists, it should be treated differently to other forms of gambling as it incorporates elements of skill and strategy, and money is won and lost between players, not to “the house.”
Last week, Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm and a Senate committee initiated an inquiry into locals’ online poker participation to analyse the repercusions of the new amendment to Australia’s law, which he considers “rather silly” due to its prohibitionist approach.
However, there has been opposition to his stance from some submissions to the hearing such as the Salvation Army’s, who say that online gambling it’s riskier for problem users than the regular version, or the Australian Institute of Family Studies’ one, that argues that “regular poker players appear to be exceptionally vulnerable to problem gambling and associated harms.”
According to Federal Communications Minister Mitch Fifield, the amendment’s purpose is to prohibit services such as online poker: “With the law being clarified, it is evident that a number of these operators have begun withdrawing their services from Australians. Whilst I appreciate that this is not welcomed by those individuals who have been using these services, it is a fact that online poker has always been a prohibited service under the act. It is not something that this bill is enacting. Whether online poker should be legal in Australia or not is a separate debate,” he said.