Australian Lawmakers Force Inquiry into Online Poker Ban
JUNE 14, 2017 BY DAVID SHELDON
Two Australian Senators have made progress in their push to block Australia’s de facto ban on online poker. Senators David Leyonhjelm and Cory Bernardi, respectively of the Liberal Democrats and Australian Conservatives, two minor political parties in the country, had their motion to establish an inquiry into online poker approved this week.
Senator David Leyonhjelm has branded Australia’s prohibition of online poker “a really stupid situation to be in.” The Interactive Gambling Act Amendment is likely to have the opposite of its intended effect by driving players towards the black market. (Image: Kym Smith/The Australian)
“It’s prohibited,” Leyonhjelm, an outspoken libertarian, told reporters in Canberra this week. “The stupid government has made it virtually impossible to play poker online. As a result, thousands of Australians who play poker for fun … can’t play it online, or they won’t once the bill takes effect. It’s insane.”
The bill in question is the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill, a piece of legislation designed to protect consumers from unlicensed operators by making it far more difficult for such operators to target Australian players.
It clarifies that the original Interactive Gambling Act only permits operators licensed in Australia to provide online gambling services. But since Australia only offers licensing for sports betting, it has the effect of banning both online poker and casino gaming.
Black is the New Gray
Previously, operators like PokerStars and 888 were able to offer games to Australians due to the lack of legal clarity over what it meant to be “licensed.” Since they were licensed and regulated elsewhere, and had no opportunity to be licensed in Australia, they continued to operate, albeit it in a “gray market.”
But with the bill’s enactment, the country’s online poker players will have little recourse but to engage with offshore, unlicensed operators, thus achieving the opposite of its intended purpose.
It will drive players into the hands of less reputable online poker sites, rather than those that would gladly have sought Australian licensing had the opportunity been available.
“There is quite an active online poker community in Australia,” said Leyonhjelm. “I don’t think [prohibition] will succeed for those really determined. If you have a VPN or offshore account, you will still play. It’s a stupid situation to be in.”
First Online Poker Conviction
Earlier this month, Australia secured its first prosecution of an online poker operator for violating the Interactive Gambling Act. Luke Brabin, WSOP Asia-Pacific gold bracelet holder and owner of the site play.pokerasiapacific.com, was fined A$10,000 ($7,500) for providing an illegal gambling service.
At the time the charges against Brabin were filed, play.pokerasiapacific.com was lobbying he government to have online poker excluded from the Interactive Gambling Act.
On his Facebook page, Leyonhjelm said he encourages all Australians concerned about online poker to make a submission to the forthcoming inquiry and that he would post a link to submissions as soon as one is made available.
Why Online Poker in Australia Needs You by from Joseph Del Duca on July 10, 2017 5:11 AM This is a guest contribution from Joseph Del Duca, founder of the Australian Online Poker Alliance (AOPA). The AOPA is a community run organisation and advocate for safe and sensible online poker legislation ensuring that Australian poker players are heard.
If the poker community doesn't act now, online poker will no longer be permitted in Australia. Legislation currently sits in parliament which effectively ends online poker. Reputable, regulated sites have announced that they will withdraw from the market if this law comes into effect.
This puts Australian poker players at a great risk. The vacuum that will be left after these large sites leave will present two choices to those that want to continue playing poker. Firstly, play exclusively in live venues or secondly, use sites that choose to deliberately operate outside the law by continuing to offer games to Australian players. Both of these scenarios are unfavourable outcomes for Australian players.
Live poker is fantastic, it is something that we all enjoy and it doesn't matter how much you play online the thrill of playing a live game is always exciting and something that every poker player enjoys. However, should it be the only option?
Access to live games is limited in Australia by both cost and location. Costs are much higher in live games. At Crown Casino in Melbourne, the cheapest tournament available costs $60. At The Star in Sydney the cheapest tournament is $220. Compare this to online where more than 75% of tournaments played are for a buy in of $10 or less. There are significant costs in running a live tournament such as hiring staff and other overheads so it is simply not possible for casinos to offer tournaments at this price point. What does this mean to the player that only wants to play a $5 tournament? They are being told that they must either quit a hobby that they enjoy or play for larger sums of money than they are comfortable. This does not seem to be in the best interest of Australian citizens.
The other issue is location. In the time since founding the Australian Online Poker Alliance I have spoken with thousands of Aussie poker players. An overwhelming number of these players are from regional and rural areas, often great distances from their local casino or pub poker game. They are limited in their choices outside of online poker. As a society we are moving so many services online to improve access, why are we scaling this back in poker and telling players that because of where they live they do not have the same ability to enjoy those hobbies as other Australians do? In addition to this there are our elderly and our disabled for whom many, going to a public venue to play may be impossible. Poker is a game of strategy and mental stimulation enjoyed by players of all ages. I recently received an email from an elderly gentleman by the name of Mick. This is what it said:
"I would like to tell you why I play online poker. I am 80yrs old and need to keep my brain active, I have played poker for many years and find it very stimulating and challenging, it also adds to my social life, I am a disabled pensioner so don't get out a lot, i don't spend a lot of money playing, you can play as low as 25 cents or even less depending on what game you play, i like to chat to other players from all around the world, it can be very social. i used to play in the hotels, but can't get out any more. Without online poker my life would be miserable to say the least, i think if you ban poker online most people will go to the poker machines in the hotels and this would be 100 times worse than online, please look at all the repercussions that will occur if you ban our hobby."
The other option available for players like Mick is to choose to play with sites that deliberately operate outside the law. We have seen countless examples in America post Black Friday of this ending in tragedy. Sites have disappeared and taken millions of dollars in players funds with them, as they were operating outside of the law to begin with the government was powerless to help the victims.
If sites are comfortable operating against the will of a sovereign nation what hope is there that they will act with an appropriate level of integrity and social responsibility when it comes to protecting players funds and running honest games? What the current government position does is effectively replace the regulated, publicly listed companies that are currently serving Australia to smaller sites choosing to deliberately act outside of Australian law. Clearly this is not in the country's best interest.
What can I do to help?
Our campaign is working. The government is holding a Senate Inquiry into the future of online poker in Australia. We have until July 21 to make our voices heard. We need you to do one of two things.
1) Head to the Australian Online Poker Alliance website and use our talking points to write a submission that personally explains your position and why you are so passionate about regulated online poker remaining in Australia
2) Not sure what to write? Head to the Inquiry Page and leave the below statement with your name and contact details.
"I want regulated online poker in Australia. All banning online poker does is ensure that reputable operators will no longer operate in Australia and replaces them with those that purposefully act outside of Australian law.
As an Australian citizen and a taxpayer I should have the right to enjoy the hobby I love without the government interfering. Regulating online poker will allow me to continue playing poker whilst ensuring that appropriate consumer protections are in place and that an additional government revenue stream is secured."
We can make a difference. But we need to act now! Don't wait for somebody else to act. It is up to YOU to save our game.
Joseph Del Duca is the founder of the Australian Online Poker Alliance (AOPA).
Always going to happen it still sucks it's finally official
Selfishly because I've been crushing cash tables for the last couple of months. Are americas card room and Ignition any good? I've heard some horror stories about cashing out of Americas cardroom.
What kind of numbers do those sites get? Is holdem manager able to be used on them?
Pretty sure today is the last day for Pokerstars in Australia. Get a few games in while you can.
I really burnt myself out on poker pre black friday and losing my bankroll on full tilt (managed to get most of it off in the weeks prior) was about the last straw and although I always envisioned myself coming back to the game, I never really did. Spins were fun for a little while and the only cash game I'm keen to play, 8 game mix rarely runs above micro stakes during out peak time. Despite the lure of big cashes, tournaments and 180/45s are the most boring thing in the world to me.
Played a few 180s and 18 mans this morning for old times sake and I was bored out of my mind and mainly playing Hearthstone. Still have 30 bucks left on the account, guess I'll go donate at some 8 game cash.
I believe ACR poker will be the best option for us going forward, but I just have no passion for the game left anymore so I doubt I'll bother.
Thank Goodness this scam called online Poker is no longer available To Aussies...If you wanted a badbeat just go all in against a Russian and watch as you get crushed. My last beat was on the bubble in a $15 Tourney. KK on the button SB folds BB goes calls all in with 6.2 of Yep flop was 662 forget the rest. That was only one of many against those cheating Russian C#$%. Australia better off without this scam. Go to the casino and get donked live.