Hopes of a reprieve for the Aussie online poker industry have been dashed after the Senate passed the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016.
A public note from the Department of Human Resources has confirmed that the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 was passed by the Senate on August 9.
Although the bill had been dangling over the industry like the Sword of Damocles since MP Alan Tudge introduced it in 2016, the news still came as a shock to those in the community.
Senate Inquiry Gave Players Hope
Following an August 1 Senate inquiry hearing into the issue of online poker, poker players across Australia were hopeful that some sort of resolution could be reached before the bill was passed.
During the hearing, players and gambling experts outlined the current situation and warned that players would continue to play on illegal offshore sites even if new laws were brought in.
Based on this, the industry representatives argued for a poker exemption as well as regulation that would offer a form of protection for those wanting to play online.
When the hearing was over, the mood among those involved was positive, but those efforts now appear to have been in vain as the bill Tudge introduced has been passed.
When the MP took the findings of the 2015 Review of Illegal Offshore Wagering, his main intention was to close the loophole operators were using to offer in-play sports bets.
However, in producing the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016, he essentially outlawed all forms of online betting, including poker.
Poker Players Are the Unintended Victims
Under the terms of the bill, the law will now clearly state that any operator not licensed under State or Territory laws will be deemed illegal. On top of this, new sanctions will be imposed on those that break the law.
When the bill was first introduced in November 2016, it prompted many of the major poker operators to consider their positions in the market. 888poker announced its exit in January 2017, while PokerStars vowed to follow suit once the bill had been passed into law.
Now that process is all but complete, PokerStars and any other online poker sites still active in Australia will have to leave which means players now face a complete blackout.
In light of the news, a long running thread on 2+2 has seen a slew of potential means of recourse put forward. Everything from a legal challenge to a protest designed to capture the mainstream media’s attention has been suggested.
However, at this stage, the verdict remains and the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 will be officially signed into law within the next 30 days.