In a setback to online poker lovers in Australia, the Senate has passed the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 which bans all unlicensed gambling activity and made no exemption for online poker.
Online poker proponents were expecting the Senate to wait for the findings of a Senate Inquiry examining the case for exempting online poker which was to be presented on September 21. However legislators cleared the Bill without waiting for the inquiry report.
The amendment to the country’s gaming bill was originally aimed at closing off an existing loophole that allowed sports betting to flourish despite a ban. But the new bill’s provisions effectively make all gaming activity illegal without unauthorized license.
To save the game, poker players in Australia banded together to form the Australian Online Poker Alliance (AOPA) and lobbied legislators for an exemption. Players sent their views to the legislators in a bid to educate them on the pros and cons of a licensed online poker industry in the country.
The AOPA was successful in receiving the backing of Australian Sen. David Leyonhjelm who was able to get approval to hold an inquiry into online poker. An inquiry hearing was held on Aug. 1 which saw poker players present their views to the relevant committee. Joseph Del Duca of the AOPA said that the support from the player community had been overwhelming.
In a statement Joseph Del Duca said
The Australian poker community should be very proud of how they have held themselves through the campaign. We have rallied together as a strong community. The inquiry has received so many submissions from people who want to save our game that they haven't been able to keep up with the work load.
During the inquiry hearing two experts recruited by the AOPA offered their professions opinions. Dr. Sally Gainsbury, a university professor, said that the regulation would not have the desired impact of prohibiting the game, as players would instead patronize illegal gambling sites which offer little to no consumer protection Australian online poker player Oliver Gill pointed out that prohibition has failed in other countries and wouldn’t succeed in Australia as well. He said that it helped no stakeholder in Australia to push players towards the black market. He also highlighted the fact that banning online poker in the country, would create an illegal online poker industry which would allow Australian poker players to be exploited by these illegal operators.
However those arguments were not convincing enough for the Senate to delay the passing of the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016.