In Australia, the Senate has today followed the House Of Representatives in passing a piece of amended legislation that has closed several loopholes to completely ban online casino and poker games as well as the placing of in-play sports wagers.
Introduced in November by Alan Tudge, Human Services Minister for Australia, following the publication of the government’s Review Of Illegal Offshore Wagering report, the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 has now amended the nation’s existing laws on online gambling in order to outlaw the provision and promotion of all unlicensed services to local players.
The House Of Representatives passed the measure, which was designed to “bridge the loopholes found in the Interactive Gambling Act 2001”, on February 8 and the Senate move means that all online casino and poker games are now illegal while international bookmakers will henceforth be required to obtain a local license in order to continue offering their services to Australia-based punters.
However, the ban by Canberra has not been welcomed by all legislators with Senator David Leyonhjelm from the Liberal Democratic Party telling The Huffington Post Australia news service that the new legislation is “stupid” as its changes are unnecessary and will be ineffective.
“If you want to play poker, there are lots of opportunities in Australia at casinos and tournaments,” Leyonhjelm told The Huffington Post Australia. “It’s not as if there isn’t a great deal of poker playing already but they’re just stopping it online. The whole world is online now. The original 2001 law was meant to stop online gambling of many kinds but it didn’t [as] there was a loophole. There is quite an active online poker community in Australia. 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. It’s a stupid situation to be in.”
Although online in-play sportsbetting had been outlawed for some time, the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 has now closed a loophole that allowed punters to place live wagers via the use of “click to call” features on operators’ websites and apps. Live wagering had been cited as a possible factor in match or spot-fixing although Leyonhjelm told The Huffington Post Australia that the new prohibition could actually help this illegal market to prosper.
“In the United Kingdom, there are licensed providers of in-play betting and the government taxes them,” Leyonhjelm told The Huffington Post Australia. “They raised hundreds of millions in revenues last year. They are also able to audit the betting to link sports events being rigged and correlate that back to activity to follow the money trail. The ban on in-play sportsbetting is meant to stop corruption of sport. If that happens now, we may never know.”
The passage of the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 had been widely expected and 888Poker.com, which is the world’s second largest online poker website, exited the Australian market earlier this year while Vera&John wound up its operations down under near the end of 2016.
“It will promote the black market,” Leyonhjelm told The Huffington Post Australia. “There are ways to circumvent these prohibition approaches. People will gamble using foreign providers by various means. They will be in the hands of sometimes shady providers and if they get ripped off they will have no recourse.”