The long period of uncertainty concerning the status of online gambling in Australia has finally come to an end with the country finally getting a law that clarifies the issue. The country’s online gambling bill was introduced in November 2016 because there were many concern about how the industry was operated.
Known as the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016, it was introduced by Alan Tudge, the country’s Minister for Human Services. It was passed by lawmakers after much debate. It was then given the Royal Assent by Governor General Peter Cosgrove on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II, after which it became a law.
Now that the law has been passed, it has become illegal to offer most online casino games in the Antipodean country. Poker has also been included in the online gambling bill although there was an attempt to keep it out of the law’s ambit. An enquiry into the issue has been commissioned but the result will only be made published at the end of September.
Old Gambling Law Outdated
Australia did have a gambling law, but since it dated to 2001 it was not capable of dealing with the present nature of the industry. In fact, the lack of clarity on whether online gambling was allowed or not led to the creation of a fast growing grey market. Gambling operators from Australia and abroad had unfettered access to the market and they did not come under the ambit of regulators, leaving plenty of space open for illegal and dangerous practices.
However, most of these operators were spooked when the country’s senate approved the amended bill. Many of them suspended their services to the market almost immediately. Operators such as Vera & John, 32Red and 888 Casino have had to shut down their lucrative operations in the country, and many more will join them soon.
Operators from abroad will still be able to operate in specific areas of the country, but only as long as they obtain a license from the territory in question. The licenses won’t come cheap and the process of obtaining them will also be long drawn out.
Problem Gambling in Australia
The lack of a proper gambling law in Australia has actually led to a situation where there wasn’t any protection for vulnerable gamblers. Gambling addiction has become a huge problem in the country because of unfettered access available to underage players and others who clearly are gambling way too much money they cannot afford. In a well regulated market there will be checks and balances to prevent obvious instances of problem gambling. There has been a high profile campaign to curtail the reach of the online gambling industry.
Poker Players Disappointed
The inclusion of online poker in the list of banned activities has disappointed and frustrated many players because they maintain that poker is completely different from slots and other casino games because it requires skill to play the former. Casino games, on the other hand, are entirely games of chance. The industry was willing to welcome greater regulation but feel that a great disservice has been done to it by banning it entirely. PokerStars is likely to exit the Australian market without delay.
The online gambling lobby has been working hard to push back the bill in order to prevent it from becoming law. Senator David Leyonhjelm, one of the supporters of the industry, even went so far as to term the amended bill stupid. However, there is nothing they can do at the present since the Royal Assent puts the final stamp of approval on it. There are fears that players will now be pushed to play at unregulated sites.