Australia Sees Fallout from New Law Banning Online Poker

Online poker exploded in Australia in the early 2010s, with revenue in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The online poker industry, unlike in the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as other European countries, remained unlicensed. However, the Australian Senate passed a bill in late 2016 that banned online poker in the country. This led to businesses leaving the market, and problems with unregulated companies.

The Online Poker Industry in Australia

Before the passage of the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill of 2016, many companies in Australia offered online poker as part of a lucrative gaming market. PokerStars, 888 Poker, and Vera & John have all exited the market, and they were the three largest companies in the country. Online gaming has become increasingly popular in the country, especially the sports gaming market, which has seen its revenue continue to grow in the last five years. Some of the smaller online poker entities have decided to try and fight the new law, but, so far, they have not received any traction for their efforts to have the bill changed.

What the Bill Does

The bill was proposed by the Minister for Human Services, who wanted to close the loopholes in the gambling legislation. The law bans online poker and casino games unless they have been licensed by the Australian government, which currently is not granting licenses. In addition to the ban on online poker and casino games, the law closed a loophole that allowed live sports betting by telephone as the game was ongoing, which is no longer possible. The legislature stated that particular loophole needed to close because gaming services were offering live betting via apps or VoIP calls, which legislators said made it that much easier to fix matches in sporting events.

The Problems with the New Law

Researchers and gambling advocates point to several problems with the new law. First, if people want to play poker in Australia, there are plenty of other options. They can go to one of the on-site casinos in the country. They can also play at the poker machines (pokies), which are everywhere in the country.

In addition, by banning online poker, the country has banned revenue in the hundreds of millions of dollars, which cuts into the revenue not only of the country as a whole but also in the individual states of Australia. The nation has increased taxes for gaming in the hope of gaining additional revenue, so it would appear that restricting online gaming is counterproductive. Australia’s ally, the United Kingdom allows both online poker and in-play sports betting, which allows the country to collect millions of dollars in revenue from both types of gaming. In addition, the gaming regulation system of the United Kingdom has audits of the gaming industry, which has been instrumental in finding and prosecuting the offenders, and has made the country’s sporting events safer from match fixing.

Perhaps the largest problem with the Australian law is that, in reality, the poker players who want to gamble will find several ways to gamble online without government interference. First, players can use private Internet networks to access online gaming sites. Players can also use offshore gaming accounts that are not as reliable as traditional online gaming businesses, such as CrownBet. This increases the risk of fraud and theft of money from Australians, as well as a loss of revenue for the country.

It remains to be seen whether the country will change its mind with regard to online gaming and in-game sports betting. Perhaps a loss of revenue for the country will be the impetus the nation needs to revise its current laws.

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Richard Holmes was born in Tampa, Florida and studied computer science at Pensacola Christian College in Pensacola Florida. A devout Baptist, volunteer Sunday School teacher and online gaming fan, Richard works as a part-time systems administrator at Baptist Hospital and part-time professional blogger specializing in statistics, probability and computer science issues. He is an ardent believer in the future of artificial intelligence as a tool for transforming human society for the better, particularly in the area of health care and modern medicine. A chess player, and competitive online gamer Richard actively participates on online gaming tournaments in his free time.