Report Supports Online Poker Legalization in Australia but Only after Comprehensive Research

The Participation of Australians in online poker report on whether the legalization of online poker in Australia would be a move that would benefit residents was released earlier this week by the Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications. The report acknowledged that the game may be far less addictive that other iGaming products, but its legalization should occur only after comprehensive research has been carried out into both its benefits and the risks it might pose to players.

The provision of online casino games and poker to Australian players is officially illegal after the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 was approved by the federal government and was given Royal Assent by Governor-General Peter Cosgrove in August.

Despite the nationwide prohibition on online gaming, the nation’s tight online poker community has not given up on its battle to eventually exclude the game from the list of banned services. Local poker players have actually gained support among politicians who have joined their cause. Sen. David Leyonhjelm has become among the most vocal online poker proponents over the past several months.

Earlier this year, Sen. Leyonhjelm was given the green light to launch an inquiry into online poker that allowed both proponents and opponents of its legalization to voice their opinion on the matter. Many believed that the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill would not be enacted before the results from the inquiry were published.

The Report’s Findings

Based on input from hundreds of online poker players, many of whom play or played the game professionally or semi-professionally, a specially assembled committee compiled a report with findings and recommendations for the future of Australia’s online poker.

Committee members acknowledged that the federal online gaming ban has impacted negatively a number of players’ capacity to earn their income and that such players could turn to the black market and to operators with questionable practices in order to be able to play poker.

The report points out that the legalization and proper regulation of the game could prevent the black market from expanding and thus putting players into serious risk of fraud and other related crimes.

Some of the submissions in the inquiry have argued that online poker is a game of skill or at least one that represents a mixture of skill and chance and that players can spend longer period of time playing with without spending too much. Supporters have also pointed out that online poker is not as likely to cause gambling-related harm as other forms of iGaming.

Committee members said that the prevention of players from gambling addiction and related harm should be of the utmost importance. However, according to them, little research has been carried out on both the benefits and the negative impact of online poker and that the game should not and cannot be legalized before substantial evidence is collected that the move will not result in any considerable increase in the number of people with problem gambling behavior.

Committee members based the aforementioned argument on the fact that they have been provided with evidence that there were online poker players who had either suffered or were at risk of suffering from gambling-related harm.

The Committee’s Recommendations

As mentioned above, committee members recommended that more comprehensive research is carried out and enough evidence is collected on the effects and impacts of the liberalization of the local gambling market in a manner that acknowledges online poker as a legal activity.

The report also advices that no liberalization of the local market should occur before the utter and complete implementation of the National Consumer Protection Framework, a scheme aimed to introduce nationwide controls for the protection of gambling customers, both ones gambling online and at brick-and-mortar venues.

Last but not least, the committee behind the report encouraged the Australian Department of Social Services to support an extensive study into the benefits related to the current ban and the potential legalization of online poker.

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