New Rules Could Crush Australian Online Poker Economy

November 21st, 2016 | by Kaycee James
Will PokerStars leave Aussie online poker market?

New rules could cause the likes of PokerStars to leave the Australian online poker market. (Image: rbnsworld.de)

The Australian online poker industry might be about to change for the worse if an amendment to the country’s Interactive Gambling Act 2001 comes into effect.

Despite being something of a grey area for online poker since the industry started to boom, Australia has typically been a country of plenty for players and operators.

However, following the introduction of the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016, operators may now have to obtain a local license or risk being find.

Government Closing the Doors on Operators

As part of a wider effort to crackdown on loopholes that have allowed operators to offer various forms of online betting over the years, the bill will look to fine operators and players without a license.

Filed on November 10th, the amendment to the 2001 Interactive Gambling Act proposes that individuals be fined $1 million per day and companies $4.9 million.

Although the changes are yet to be approved, a positive vote from government officials would grant the Australian Communications and Media Authority the ability to issue the proposed fines. Under the current system, such penalties would require the assistance of the Australian Federal Police.

As news of the amendment filtered through the poker world, Amaya was the first company to suggest a possible exit from the market. Without any sports betting interests in Australia, PokerStars’ parent company said it wouldn’t be viable for it to pursue a license if the barriers to entry were too high.

“In Australia, we currently offer poker and are reviewing the applicability of proposed legislation to player-versus-player games of skill,” chief financial officer Daniel Sebag said during a recent investors’ call.

A Possible Domino Effect

If PokerStars does exit the Australian online poker market, it would not only be a blow for players, but the economy as a whole. Essentially, an operator like PokerStars helps to bring a certain amount of interest to the market as a whole.

Although PokerStars will often attract the majority of new players, its presence does help to push the online poker industry into the mainstream and that, in turn, helps every active operator. If this is the case, PokerStars’ potential exit, coupled with a general move to overhaul the laws surrounding online gaming, could cause Australia’s online poker economy to crash.

While Australia’s population of 23 million doesn’t make it one of the largest poker markets in terms of numbers, it is one of the more affluent countries in the world. In fact, despite being a smaller nation than the likes of Spain, Poland and Turkey, it has a significantly higher GDP.

Because of this, Australia has always been seen as a major market for online poker operators. However, if the new rules come into play, then it could force major companies to look towards countries such as India for new opportunities.

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