Senate Vote Effectively Ends Online Poker in Australia

March 22nd, 2017 | by Brian Corlisse

Online poker in Australia fell victim to government legislation on March 21 when the Senate passed a bill closing the loopholes that previously allowed the game to flourish.

Australian online poker ban.

David Leyonhjelm brands Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 vote by Senate as “stupid.” (Image: skynews.com.au)

Although online poker in Australia can technically continue until the House of Representatives votes on it, it’s expected that it will pass this final hurdle without any issues.

Once this vote is complete, the bill can be moved into law which would then completely outlaw online poker in Australia.

New Bill Blocks Old Loopholes

The issue facing Australian poker players is that the federal parliament has moved to close the loopholes left by the Interactive Gambling Regulations 2001 bill. Despite that bill’s attempt to block online poker and in-play sports betting, certain gaps in the document enabled offshore operators to sidestep any legal sanctions.

For online poker operators, if they were licensed in another country and not based in Australia, it essentially gave them a legal defense that allowed them to offer games within the country.

For online sports betting operators, the 2001 didn’t cover in-play phone betting. This allowed operators to offer links from their site to a phone service through which they could then place live bets.

Following a government review of the situation in 2015 (the Review of Illegal Offshore Wagering in 2015), the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 was produced. This bill will close these loopholes in two specific ways.

Firstly, the bill asserts that it will be illegal for any operator to offer online poker in the country without a license.

“Prohibit a person providing regulated interactive gambling services to Australians unless the person holds a license under the law of an Australian state and territory,” reads the bill.

But without a licensing system in place, there is no way for operators to get a document that would allow them to offer games legally. Secondly, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) would have increased powers to block the services of remote operators.

Stupid Vote Leaves Players Without a Place to Play

Once these new rules come into place, online poker will have one of two choices according to Liberal Democrats senator David Leyonhjelm. Speaking to the Huffington Post Australia, Leyonhjelm branded the recent vote “stupid” and that people would either stop playing or play illegally.

“I don’t think it will succeed for those really determined. If you have a [virtual private network] or offshore account, you will still play,” said Leyonhjelm.

While 888poker has already removed itself from the market, other sites like PokerStars are readying themselves for when the law finally comes into effect. For Aussie players unable to relocate, it appears as though online poker will be taken offline for the foreseeable future.

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