Poker players in Australia have been worried since November about the potential to lose access to their favorite game due to the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016. The bill is being pushed by the country’s Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge that would alter the current gambling laws of the country by closing loopholes that exist in regards to gambling. The loopholes have created a gray area of sorts that has allowed such activities as online poker to exist.
The goal of the amendment was to stop illegal wagers occurring via ‘in-play’ sports betting. This activity is legal but the wagers have to be placed via telephone. However, wagers are taking place via smartphones, essentially getting around the restriction. Technically, a telephone is being used for the wagers.
The amendment would shut down this loophole but also affect any games that are not explicitly legalized in the country, including online poker. Because of this proposed law, top online gaming providers including Vera&John and 888poker have already exited the country, with PokerStars not far behind.
Thankfully for poker players, proposed amendments have been made to the bill and a second reading of the measure will not take place until the 20th of next month. In efforts to keep online poker alive, an advocacy group has been created in the country titled the Australian Online Poker Alliance, (AOPA). Driven by poker player Joseph Del Duca, legislators in Australia have been contacted via the AOPA to try and push back against the potential for a poker ban to take place.
A new ally has emerged for the AOPA in Senator David Leyonhjelm. Leyonhjelm is part of the Liberal Democratic Party and recently introduced an amendment that would remove the game of blackjack as well as poker from the new gambling rules. The amendment, Sheet 8054, simply adds the wording ‘casino-style poker or blackjack gambling service’ in many areas of the bill when recognizing the allowed types of online gambling services based on the new rules.
The AOPA and online poker players have about four weeks to try and push for support and possibly be able to gain enough legislators on their side to prevent the game from being added to the list of activities that are officially banned in the country.