Australia bans online poker amid regulation speculation

By Robert Simmons
Online poker gaming is now illegal in Australia, following implementation of the Australian government's Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill on Wednesday.

However, officials from the Australian government have confirmed that they are mulling over potentially decriminalising the online poker market and implementing a full licensing framework.

On Tuesday, Australia’s chief online poker advocate, Senator David Leyonhjelm announced that he “has received a letter from Communications Minister Mitch Fifield advising that he has instructed his Department to undertake some preliminary work examining the feasibility of Australian onshore providers obtaining licences to operate online poker.”

The primary aim of the Interactive Gambling Amendment act was to stop unlicensed sports betting operators from targeting Australian customers, while instituting the requirement that any company taking Australian bets had to have an Australian licence.

This had the unfortunate consequence of effectively banning online poker, and despite the best efforts of Leyonhjelm and the Australian Online Poker Association efforts to exclude online poker from the forthcoming legislation fell on deaf ears.

Many online poker operators, such as PokerStars and 888 were forced to withdraw their services from Australian players as a result.

Despite this week’s setback, Senator Leyonhjelm remains committed to the establishment of a new Australian regulatory body, similar in its make up to the UK’s Gambling Commission, saying: “Australian online poker players deserve to have a safe, regulated environment in which to enjoy their pastime and not be forced into using offshore sites, I will make sure this matter maintains momentum.”

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