Last week, the Australian Senate passed the Internet Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 which will outlaw online poker in the country. The bill was passed by the House of Representatives in June. The action by the Senate was actually a surprise to poker players and proponents in Australia as hearings were held a short time ago to consider a carve-out for the game.
In light of recent events, online poker giant PokerStars has now decided they will be departing the market. PokerStars will be the latest online gaming site to leave Australia, joining the ranks of 888poker, Vera&John, 32Red and more. PokerStars is expected to make their exit mid-September.
The online poker operator has assured poker players of Australia that their monies are safe. PokerStars is encouraging players to remove any funds with any unused rewards like tournament tickets and StarsCoins to be converted to real money once the official exit date is set.
While the brand will no longer be offering real money game play, they do intend on staying in Australia offering play money gaming. In an email sent to their customers of Australia, as reported by OnlinePoker.net, PokerStars stated that they respect the decision of the Australian Government in taking steps to protect consumers and hope to serve real-money poker to players again.
The approved bill requires that any online gambling services provided in the country be done so operators who have an online gambling license to do so. However, there is no such option currently available for operators. Those who go against the new law, once it goes into effect, will face stiff penalties such as $5 million a day.
Operators like PokerStars have been expecting this day for quite some time. It was in November 2016 that Alan Tudge, the Minister of Human Services, introduced the bill to see offshore online gambling sites banned. At that time, PokerStars told their shareholders that they might have to leave the lucrative market.
Those in favor of the bill argue that gambling addiction is a public health concern and those who are the most vulnerable need to be protected. Opponents of the new bill argue that poker is a game of skill and the least dangerous of any gambling activity as it is one of skill instead of luck.