Earlier this week, the Senate of Australia decided to approve legislation that will stop offshore online poker operators from providing their services within the country. The 2016 Internet Gambling Amendment Bill will go into effect in a 30-day time frame, leaving poker operators with the choice of removing services from the country or operating illegally. Even though there was some opposition to the measure by lawmakers, the legislation was able to pass into law, which will result in top-rated online poker sites leaving Australia.
It was in the fall of last year that the 2016 Internet Gambling Amendment Bill was introduced and designed to close loopholes the government said existed within current legislation that allowed online poker sites to operate despite a prohibition that was created in 2001. Basically, a grey market was created. When the legislation was introduced, several brands removed their services from Australia including Vera&John. 888 Poker decided to leave Australia in January of this year to avoid any issue if the legislation were to come to pass, as it ended up doing so this month.
According to the legislation, online poker operators cannot offer their games within Australia unless they are licensed to do so. However, in Australia, there is currently no option for licensing or regulations in place regarding online poker so there is no ability for companies to stay in the country, even legally. The bill is not only targeting poker but also other forms of wagering. The bill has language that bans wagering on sports games or matches that are in progress.
It’s interesting to look at these changes to the gambling industry of Australia as it has been proven that Australians are big gamblers. Around 80% of individuals of Australia gamble in some form of fashion. Whether they have access to online poker rooms or not, Aussies love to gamble and they will continue to do so. Currently, it is unclear as to how much online poker revenues will be lost due to operators pulling out of the country, though one would imagine the amount will be significant due to the percentage of Australian gamblers as a whole.