Australia Online Poker: The Party is Over
Online poker was a worldwide phenomenon in the early 2000s, with players emerging all over the globe and coming together on various gaming sites. However, the global push fell away dramatically when George W Bush made US online poker illegal in 2006. From March 2017, the international online poker scene has lost Australia.
Australia Bans Online Gambling Channels
Australia had been working on the amendment of its online gambling industry since 2015, when the Review of Illegal Offshore Wagering was performed. Ultimately, Australia’s conservative politicians felt that too many residents were playing online poker with offshore operators. They also felt there were more than enough land-based opportunities to play poker within the country.
Fast-forward to November 2016 and the Australian Senate were discussing the Gambling Amendment Bill in an attempt to shut regulatory loopholes. As of 21 March 2017, Australia passed the Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 and shocked the industry with its highly restrictive approach to online gambling.
Crackdown on Match Fixing in Sports
In an attempt to eradicate match fixing, Australia wanted to end in-play betting. However, this also extended to the illegalisation of online poker and online roulette. Some Australian politicians, such as Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm, couldn’t understand how online gambling games were tied to match fixing.
Incredibly, Leyonhjelm has even encouraged Australian residents to obtain a virtual private network that they can use to continue with their offshore poker account. However, players will not be able to do that with 888poker or PokerStars. Both operators will entirely leave the Australian market behind after the amendment is ratified.
Parallels with Australia and the US
Moving forward, Australia will continue to have land-based casinos where players can still engage in poker tournaments. This is similar to the US approach of maintaining physical casinos in Nevada and New Jersey, while players can also visit casinos that are operated on the sovereign land of Native Americans.
Like the Americans, the Australians seem to believe that it’s okay to gamble in person but not digitally. One primary advocate of this approach is US Republican Party supporter Sheldon Adelson. Coincidentally, he owns Las Vegas casinos that he wants people to visit.
Meanwhile, Adelson maintains fantasy sports websites whereby players compete against each other for money. The US doesn’t deem this to be a form of gambling, whereas online poker players staking their own money in a competition against each other is.
The Future of Australian Online Gambling
Online gambling operators tend to leave entirely when countries make it overly difficult for them to provide services. Two major operators already plan to leave Australia, so their industry competitors are likely to follow suit. Black market possibility will obviously emerge, but this will carry the risk of legal punishments.
The US states of New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware have all legalised online gambling because they have states’ rights to defy the US Federal Government. By comparison, Australia doesn’t have the same heritage of defiance that exists in the US. Therefore, it’s unlikely to see parts of Australia implement their own online gambling legislation.