More than a decade after the United States passed the infamous Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act, Australia is following suit with a similar bill that will effectively force all major operators out of the country.
The bill, titled the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill, has been in discussion since the fall of 2016 but yesterday the Australian Senate officially passed the legislation.
The law is set to go into effect on Sept. 9, 2017, at which time all online poker sites will have to stop offering their services to Australians.
It’s estimated there are up to 130,000 online poker players in Australia.
The Exodus Begins
Some of the biggest online poker sites have already left the Australian market.
888poker officially left the market way back in January announcing that a “business revaluation” had forced them to no longer offer services to players in the country.”
Meanwhile representatives from PokerStars have already stated that if the legislation passes they will have to block players from Australia.
PokerStars has generally been one of the last operators to leave closed-off markets but every withdrawal has been remarkably smooth. The Australian market also only represents 2.5% of PokerStars’ total revenue.
partypoker, 32Red and the Gaming Innovation Group are also expected to leave the Australia market.
Any operators that continue to operate in Australia will face fines of up to AU$6.75m a day.
If there’s any consolation for Australian poker players it’s that a Black Friday-scenario, where US-poker players were separated from their bankrolls for several years, is unlikely.
Loopholes Finally Closed in Australian Laws
Online poker has essentially existed in a gray area of Australia Law since 2001. That’s when Australia passed its first online gambling bill but since online poker barely existed at that point there wasn’t enough language that specifically referenced it.
Of course Australian Joe Hachem won the World Series of Poker Main Event in 2005 and helped push the market into overdrive, becoming arguably the most well-known poker pro in the country.
The new bill makes it illegal for any overseas gambling companies to offer services to Australians unless they hold a license under State or Territory law.
Similar to US-based legislation, it’s not illegal for individuals to play online poker but rather for the operators to offer it to said players.
Interestingly online sports betting and horse racing will remain legal, leaving online poker as the odd one out.
Poker players from around Australian banded together to form the Online Poker Players Alliance in an effort to protect online poker but those efforts, at least for now, appear to have been in vain.