Online poker in Australia could be saved from the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill thanks to a positive presentation by industry representatives.
In an effort to educate officials and potentially carve out an exception for online poker in the, a group of supporters put their case to the Environment and Communications References Committee.
Thanks to a push by Senator David Leyonhjelm to have the issue of online poker heard, gambling experts and members of the Australian Online Poker Alliance (AOPA) spoke at an official hearing on August 1.
Although the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill has mainly been designed to tackle the issue of online in-play sports betting in Australia, it will effectively outlaw online poker as well. Under the terms of the bill, all online gaming activities not authorised within the new national codes will be illegal.
Poker On the Chopping Block
Poker is one such game and that means players could soon be without a place to play. When the government approved the bill, 888poker left the market and PokerStars has stated it will do the same when it finally becomes law.
However, in an effort to stop poker from being caught in the crossfire, representatives of the AOPA, as well as two gambling experts, spoke in front of the Environment and Communications References Committee. One of the main points raised during the hearing was the issue of problem gambling and how poker could exacerbate the issue.
In his opening question, Senator Cory Bernardi wanted to know whether support of an online poker exemption was because a ban would “disadvantage individuals” or because regulation would “protect people from themselves.”
Regulated Sites Are Better Than Unregulated Sites
In response, Professor Alex Blaszczynski said that the real issue comes down to the fact Australians are already playing online poker. Elaborating, the Director of the University of Sydney’s Gambling and Treatment Clinic said that regulation would offer “some degree of consumer protection” against unlicensed sites.
Backing up this notion, psychologist Dr Sally Gainsbury said that people will continue to play online if they want to, which would mean unregulated sites are their only choice. Although the two experts were hedging their bets on what regulation would look like in practice, a combination of industry regulation and advertising oversight was suggested as a way to prevent problem gambling.
Following the hearing, Del Duca thanked Aussie poker players for submitting #AusFight4Poker forms so that their voices could be heard by members of the Senate. He also, provided an upbeat message on Facebook to those involved in the situation.
“It was great to represent the Australian Online Poker Alliance and the Aussie Poker Community at today’s Senate Inquiry hearing. Thank you to the Senators present for listening and to our poker community who have done a great job in making sure our voices are heard,” wrote Del Duca.
The committee now has until September 21 to consider the points raised during the hearing and make a decision. If it sides with the community, it could mean online poker may survive the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill.