Nationwide Online Gambling Ban Passes Through Australian Senate

The Australian Senate approved earlier today the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016, which would generally place a nationwide ban on the provision of online casino and poker services.

The bill’s passage through the upper house of the Australian Parliament came only a week after the Senate’s Environment and Communications References Committee held the Participation of Australians in Online Poker hearing, during which local online poker players and other involved parties testified on why the game should be excluded from the nationwide iGaming ban.

Being approved by the Senate, the bill, which was introduced last fall by Human Services Minister Alan Tudge, will take effect within the next 30 days. Generally speaking, it will ban unlicensed online casino and poker operators from targeting Australian players. Here it is also important to note that neither Australia’s current regulatory framework, nor the soon-to-be-implemented one include provisions that allow interested iGaming companies to apply for a license from local regulators and thus operate legally in the market.

Many believed and hoped that the Senate would wait until mid-September, when a report with the results from an online poker inquiry, which took place earlier this summer, is slated to be handed down. The inquiry asked poker players and other involved parties to voice their opinion on whether online poker should be banned and if not, why it should not be banned.

Australia’s online poker effort has been staunchly advocated by Sen. David Leyonhjelm since the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill was introduced last November. The official has been trying to convince his fellow lawmakers that sparing online poker from a ban and regulating this type of activity instead would be the right thing to do.

The bill was introduced with the intention to protect customers, particularly the vulnerable portion of them, from falling victims to gambling addiction and other social ills related to excessive and uncontrolled gambling. Sen. Leyonhjelm has repeatedly argued that online poker should be classified differently from casino games, as it requires skill to be played. In addition, the lawmaker has said he believes a regulated online market with proper monitoring tools and taxation framework would do much more good than a ban.

Local media reported that ISP blocking of unlicensed operators targeting Australian players was considered as a possibility, but would not be implemented for now. Multiple jurisdictions have deployed that approach upon regulating their markets, but it has proved highly ineffective as more stubborn and less concerned about the legal status quo operators can easily find a way around.

Although Australia’s new gambling law is yet to be implemented officially, the immediate effects from today’s positive vote will probably include the quick exit of iGaming operators from the market. PokerStars has previously informed players that it would leave Australia as soon as the bill is signed into law, so we are probably just days away from the big and unpleasant announcement from the poker room. Operators like 888poker, 32Red, and Gaming Innovation Group have already bid farewell to their Australian players.

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