Online Gaming Under Threat Down Under

Tia Winter | 11 August 2017

We see it in almost all countries, online casinos operate quite happily in a legal grey area with no specific legislation allowing or disallowing online real money gambling. But as happened in the USA, more countries are cracking down on these legal grey areas. Whether this is happening for the good of players or whether it is from pressure applied by land based casinos on the government due to lost revenue remains to be seen.

What we do know is that the Australian Government will soon pass the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill which has been designed to not only close any current legal loopholes for online gaming, but it is also set to remove any ambiguous wording of laws to avoid exploitation by unscrupulous companies.

In both the USA and Australia, the land based casino industry is very powerful. This combined with the strict gambling laws currently in place in Australia actually makes it surprising that online gaming took so long to be formally addressed, it is a shame however that this is how it will be handled.

Players Remain Safe

On the plus side, this new law does not target players, but rather the unlicensed casinos. They can be fined up to $6.75 million a day for continuing to provide illegal gambling services to Australian players. The new law is set to enact a prohibition on online gambling with the exception of sports betting and lotteries.

It is quite strange that online gambling has completely been deemed illegal while other online gambling activities remain untouched. This has prompted massive organisations like 888Poker, PokerStars, Vera and John as well as Red32 to start moving operations overseas, and to start giving players a grace period to withdraw their remaining funds and to close their accounts.

Citizens Standing Up

This move by the government has not been met sitting down by real money players. Even though the wording of the law implies that casino providers can apply for a licence, so far there is no system in place to facilitate licensing applications. This led to poker players uniting behind the Australian Online Poker Alliance.

Formed by online poker fan, Joseph Del Duca, the organisation has formed to attempt to talk some sense into the Government. Joseph found support within the online poker industry but also from Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm. 

On the 1st of August they assembled Jonathan Duniam, Cory Bernardi and David Wilson along with known poker players Luke Brabin, James Devine and others to raise their concerns with the Environment and Communication References Committee. The committee heard arguments from both sides of the online gaming community and the committee is set to deliver a verdict on the 21st of September.

For players in New Zealand this new law may have a knock on effect, but as gambling is already so well regulated, it looks less likely to move in the direction it is going Down Under.