Australia's Online Poker Ban Begins on September 9thAugust 10, 2017 9:57 am
Any hopes by Australia’s estimated 130,000 online poker players that the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill of 2016 may have faltered has now been dashed after it was approved overwhelmingly in the Senate. The vote went ahead on Wednesday, with a nationwide ban of online gambling, including poker, expected to go into effect next month.
The amended bill provides an update to the country’s Interactive Gambling Act (2001), with provisions having now been included to prevent online gambling and sports betting operators from exploiting gray areas in the law not included in the original piece of legislation. The bill was subsequently introduced in November 2016, and in June of this year made progress without any carve outs being included for online poker.
There was then a slight glimmer of hope that special treatment may be given to the online poker industry after a panel convened headed by Sen. David Leyonhjelm, but while the evidentiary information provided by poker players, gambling industry experts, and addiction specialists was due for consideration on September 21st, the recent vote by the Senate has now rendered the whole process moot. As a result, enforcement of the strict ban is due to go ahead on September 9th, and while the bill now requires operators to acquire an Australian iGambling license in order to offer their products, no regulatory body exists where such a license can be obtained.
Australia has one of the highest rates of gambling and addiction in the world, and a key reason for the bill’s adoption was the need to offer vulnerable people protection from the harms of gambling addiction, and other social ills related to an uncontrolled and unregulated gambling landscape. Commenting on the bill and the inclusion of online poker in the legislation, Federal Communications Minister Mitch Fifield addressing Parliament this year, explained:
“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.”