The world’s second largest poker site 888poker has pulled out from the Australian market, becoming the first major online operator to announce its exit from the grey market. An email sent to registered Australian players informed them that with effect from Jan 16 they would not be able to access the site.
In a statement, 888poker said
Following a business re-evaluation, we'd like to inform you that 888poker's services are not being offered to players residing in Australia and therefore your account will be closed as of 01/16/2017. You can still withdraw funds from your bankroll at any time using our web cashier
The withdrawal is most probably linked to the recent introduction of an amendment bill to the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001 which seeks to put in place new regulatory norms for online gambling in the country. The Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 is proposing a fine of up to A$6.75 million ($5.05 million) for unlicensed operators. The new amendment to the bill also contains provisions for fining individuals to the extent of A$1.35 million ($1.01 million) per day.
Unhappy at the turn of events Australian poker players have taken to social media to voice out their concerns. Some have urged the poker community to request lawmakers to withdraw the bill. The proposed amendment has triggered several gaming operators to review their Australian operations. Recently Malta-based operator Vera&John shut down their Australia-facing gaming site citing a change in business climate.
The world’s leading online poker site PokerStars has also indicated that it is considering pulling out from the market. Daniel Sebag, CFO of its parent company Amaya had said during an earnings call few months ago that if the proposed legislation is passed then the company would be withdrawing its services from the Australian market.
In addition to Australia, 888poker has also pulled out from Slovenia. PokerStars quit the country in July last year. Gaming operators decided to withdraw from the market after the country’s government informed the European Commission in March 2016 that it was revising its gaming law which would include legalization of online gambling. As in the case of Australia, once passed operators would need to procure legal licenses in order to offer services to residents of Slovenia.
Online operators are unwilling to operate in grey markets since it can result in them being classified as bad actors which can have major repercussions in markets like the United States where gaming regulators frown on such practices.