Australian online poker players have been on edge because of the possibility of upcoming regulations that will make their game illegal in the country, but it looks like for now, players will have at least another month to enjoy their pastime.
The Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016, championed by Australia’s Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge in November, would alter Australia’s current gambling laws to close some loopholes that have created a gray area of online gambling. The main goal of the amendment is to stop illegal “in-play” sports betting, which is just what it sounds like: sports bets that can be placed on contests while they are going on.
In-play sports betting is actually legal in Australia, but only if the bets are placed via telephone. In today’s internet age, though, many operators without Australian gaming licenses, particular those offshore, have created sports betting apps for smartphones that have effectively gotten around the restriction. Technically, phones are being used for placing bets and the operators have not been stopped.
But here’s the rub: while the new gaming law would close the in-play loophole, it would also prohibit any games that are not explicitly legal. Online poker is not explicitly legal, so should the law take effect, goodbye online poker.
One small bit of light for poker players is that there are several proposed amendments to the bill and delays have pushed back a second reading until at least March 20th, so Australians will still have at least that long to play.
Additionally, and this might not be much, but poker players have begun making tiny inroads with the nation’s lawmakers. A new grassroots poker advocacy group has formed called the Australian Online Poker Alliance (AOPA). Through it, poker player Joseph Del Duca has been getting in touch with Australian legislators, trying to change minds on the potential poker ban.
One legislator, Senator David Leyonhjelm of the Liberal Democratic Party, has been sympathetic to the poker players’ cause and has introduced an amendment which would create a carve-out in the bill for online poker and blackjack.
This is promising, but to throw a wet blanket on the party (no pun intended), the Liberal Democratic Party while, being represented in the legislature, is so small it has almost no clout. In fact, Del Duca is the only Senator of the country’s 76 Senators who is a member of the party. Nonetheless, he has said that he has been receiving positive feedback from his fellow Senators, and seeing as his amendment isn’t some whacked-out far-fetched thing, it may be quite possible that enough lawmakers see the light and legalize online poker if and when the new gaming amendment bill becomes law.