NSW’s outspoken Liberal Democrat Senator, David Leyonhjelm, is battling an amendment to the 2001 Interactive Gambling Act that would make it illegal to for online poker companies to offer their services in Australia.

Senator David Leyonhjelm joins fight for online poker in Australia

NSW Senator David Leyonhjelm is urging online poker players to “screw the government” and get a “VPN and an offshore site” if the battle t0 save online poker in Australia fails. (Image: Sydney Morning Herald)

The senator, a staunch libertarian on everything from gun control, to gay marriage, to legalizing marijuana, said this week he is attempting to convince the government to ditch the amendment.

In the event that it passes, however, he will prepare his own amendments to have online poker and blackjack exempted from the legislation.     

In the meantime, Leyonhjelm suggests poker players write to Minister for Services Alan Tudge, who is backing the proposal, to “politely remind him that you play online poker and you vote.”

And, if all this fails, he says, you should “screw the government, get yourself a VPN and and an offshore account and carry on as they were.”

His words, not ours.

888 and PokerStars to Quit Market

A VPN, or virtual private network, allows internet users to disguise their location by connecting to proxy servers anywhere else in the world, thus bypassing internet geo-restrictions.

It’s a controversial approach from a controversial politician, although we should mention that the senator is suggesting nothing illegal.

The proposed amendment would make it illegal for online poker sites to offer their services to Australian citizens, not for Australian citizens to use those services.

Banning online poker is not the bill’s ultimate aim. It seeks, ultimately, to prevent unlicensed online gambling operators from targeting the Australian market. But since Australia does not offer online poker licenses, just licenses for sports betting, sites like PokerStars and 888.com, have little choice but to quit the market.

888Poker has already exited, while PokerStars has said that it expects do so too, once the amendment passes.

Feeding the Black Market

While it remains legal for Australians to play online poker, the proposed legislation will merely have the effect of driving respectable online poker sites out of the market, forcing players to seek out the “real” unlicensed sites that don’t give a damn about Australian law.      

“These interactive gambling laws are supposed to be about preventing match-fixing in sports, which makes no sense when applied to online poker because it’s not a spectator sport,” said Leyonhjelm.

But Australian poker players are pushing back against the existentialist threat. The Australian Poker Alliance is a grassroots organisation determined to fight the cause.

They’ve created a petition on change.org, entitled “Keep Online Poker in Australia!” and you can sign it here.

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