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Campaign urges Australians to fight against proposed online poker ban

Australian advocacy group the Taxpayers' Alliance is campaigning against a move to ban online poker under the country's proposed Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill.

The Taxpayers' Alliance says that it believes the bill aimed at amending the 2001 Interactive Gambling Act is admirable overall and something that most people support. It argues, however, that the bill has the "unintended consequence" of acting as a ban on online poker, "destroying a hobby and pastime shared by thousands of Australians".

Introduced by Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge and Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield in November 2016, the bill aims to tighten and modernise Australia's gambling laws and close the loophole that allows in-play betting and gambling with offshore operators.
A report by former New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell estimated that around AUD$400m is gambled via offshore sports, casino and poker sites, with Australia missing out on around $100m in taxes and product fees as a result.

The Alliance says that the decision to exclude language specifically authorising online poker under the Amendment Bill goes against expert advice, noting that a 2012 review by the Department of Communications and the Digital Economy found that poker is a game of both luck and skill.

"[The review] also noted a significant interactive and social element which clearly differentiates it from slots machines and other forms of gambling," the Alliance explained. "That government review recommended that online poker not be banned, but rather that the government look to regulate and licence it."

The Alliance added that it is also necessary to allow offshore poker operators into the Australian market in order to create sufficient liquidity for poker games.

"When we talk about overseas we are not referring to small companies set up with the sole focus of exploiting the Australian market. We are referring to large multinational companies with billions of dollars in turnover that are publicly listed on the stock exchanges of London and Toronto," the Taxpayers' Alliance said.

In response to the proposed ban, the Taxpayers' Alliance has launched a campaign in support of online poker regulation in Australia, including a petition on Change.org which it intends to deliver to the Federal Government once it has collected 2,500 signatures. The petition has signed up 1,618 supporters as of today's date.

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