Australia’s Highly Contested Online Gambling Bill Now Ready to Become Law

The Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 received on Wednesday Royal Assent from Australian Governor-General Peter Cosgrove, which means that the legislative piece has completed the final step needed to become law.

The bill was introduced last November by Australian Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge. It emerged as a long-called-for revision of the nation’s online gambling law. Australia’s original gambling law was implemented back in 2001 as the Interactive Gambling Act.

However, that first law lacked in clarity on the legality of iGaming services in the Commonwealth. The provision of online sports betting services was the only remote gambling activity to have been proclaimed as explicitly legal under the Act. Online casino games, poker included, were neither legal, nor illegal under former regulations. Thus, iGaming operators were able to target Australian players for over 15 years with gray market services.

The Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 was crafted with the intention to provide clarity over the legal state of online gambling operations. It generally prohibited the provision of unlicensed iGaming services to Australian players. However, the bill did not include provisions on how interested international operators could apply for the necessary approval to enter the local market.

With the amendment bill now being signed into law, online casino games, poker included, are practically illegal in the country. Minister Tudge’s piece of legislation was voted by the Australian House of Representatives in March. The bill was then sent to the Senate to be reviewed and voted on. The upper house of the Parliament passed the piece on August 9.

Last fall’s introduction of the bill caused quite a lot of confusion in the industry as some of the world’s largest online casino and poker operators were operating in the Australian market at the time. Several of them departed the country even before the bill entered the House, with some of those being Vera&John, 32Red, 888poker. Others, including the iGaming brands of Gaming Innovation Group, made a hasty exit after the legislative piece passed the lower house.

PokerStars was one of the operators to wait until the bill was signed into law before closing their online gaming parlors to local players. Yet, the world’s largest online poker room informed its Australian clients that it was planning a mid-September exit. The exact date is yet to be confirmed.

As mentioned above, the newly implemented ban on iGaming included the provision of online poker services. Australia’s online poker community has been trying to overturn that decision for months now and it should be said that its efforts have yielded certain positive results.

Earlier this month, the Australian Senate’s Environment and Communications References Committee heard from local players, fellow lawmakers, and other involved parties on the state of the nation’s online poker industry. The committee was also presented with arguments on why legalized online poker would be a better move than the looming ban on this type of iGaming offering.

Committee members are also preparing a report based on a recently completed inquiry that asked interested parties to voice their opinion on the matter. The report’s publication is due September 21.

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