Online poker players in Australia have gotten a brief reprieve after the gaming amendment bill that would redefine industry regulations has been delayed. The Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 introduced by Australia’s Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge is proposing to plug gaps in the existing gaming law.
A legislative delay in discussions related to changes to the bill has resulted in a second reading being pushed back until March 20, which means that online poker players can continue playing undisturbed at least until then.
The amendment bill aims to make in-play sports betting illegal among others. The sports betting industry is currently taking advantage of a loophole in the law that allows betting via telephones. Betting companies are therefore using smartphone apps to enable players to bet legally. The gaming amendment is seeking to shut this practice down.
The new bill also proposes that all forms of gaming be allowed only if legally licensed. Since the existing law doesn’t deal with online poker, it is a gray area. But if passed the amendment bill will make it illegal for online gaming companies to offer their services to Australian residents without a license.
According to Tudge, the bill will ensure protection to Australian consumers from unlicensed offshore gaming operators. However it threatens the operations of online poker companies. Gaming sites like 888poker and Vera&John have withdrawn from the market stating that they are awaiting further clarity on the regulatory front. PokerStars has also indicated that it will cease its Australian operations in time. Companies are wary of operating without a license in markets with clear gaming laws as it can affect their standing in other gaming jurisdictions.
Unhappy with the development, a group of players have formed Australian Online Poker Alliance (AOPA)> that is seeking to protect online poker in Australia through educating and influencing lawmakers. The group has so far gained support of one legislator Senator David Leyonhjelm from the Liberal Democratic Party who has vocally supported their stance.
He has sponsored an amendment that seeks to exclude online poker and blackjack from the bill which would protect the games. Leyonhjelm has also suggested that players contact Tudge with their concerns to make sure that their opinions as voters are heard.
According to Leyonhjelm, he has been receiving positive feedback from his fellow legislators on his bill. However with the review of the legislation delayed, players and operators will have to wait and watch.