PokerStars has sent an e-mail to its Australian players that it will withdraw from the Australia market in mid-September following the passage of a new online gambling bill in the country. The Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill (2016) passed parliament on August 9th and effectively bars all internet gaming sites that are not licensed in Australia. PokerStars does not have such a license.
Now, one’s initial reaction might be that PokerStars will just apply for a license, eventually be granted one, and Aussies can start playing again. And that would be a reasonable thought, but unfortunately, that won’t happen. The bill permits online gambling, but only of the sports betting variety. As sports betting operators are the only ones, therefore, who would be able to apply for a license, online poker operators like PokerStars have no way of complying with the law. Well, no way except to get out of Dodge.
PokerStars had already announced that there was a high likelihood it would leave Australia, so this comes as no surprise, even though it is disappointing. The exact withdrawal date depends on when the law goes into effect, but it is expected in roughly the middle part of next month.
Online bingo site Vera&John was the first online gambling site to exit Australia, doing so in December 2016. 888poker was the first poker site to do it, leaving the country in January of this year.
Below is the entire statement issued to Australian players by PokerStars:
The Australian parliament on August 9 passed the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill (2016) effectively banning all online gambling sites that are not locally licensed under Australian State or Territory law. We’ve been aware of this day coming and have done our best to keep you informed, but we can confirm that we’ll be closing our real money poker tables to players in Australia, most likely around mid-September. We will contact you as soon as a firm date is confirmed.
Your funds are, and will continue to be, safe and available for withdrawal. Remember to open any unopened Stars Rewards Chests you have, and you can continue to spend your StarsCoin in the Rewards Store. A $1 Cash Rebate has been added to facilitate converting your StarsCoin to cash. Any tournament tickets and tournament money will be converted to cash for withdrawal, effective from the market exit date. We have provided a FAQ page here.
We’re proud to have seen the Australian poker community grow so strong over the last decade. We do respect the Australian Government’s decision in taking steps to protect consumers and hope that in time we’ll be able to serve real money poker to you again. In the meantime, we will continue to offer play money poker and we hope to continue to welcome many Australian players to our tables.
We’d also like to thank the Australian Online Poker Alliance for their campaigning on behalf of the game and suggest that you consider lending them your voice if you’d like to see a regulated return of online poker to Australia.