Senators in Australia have approved a bill which would place a nationwide ban on iGaming, despite opposition from many local players.The Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 ('the Bill') will amend the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (IGA) and represents the Australian Government’s response to recommendations raised in a 2015 consultation Review of the impact of illegal offshore wagering.
Under the new bill, all online casino and poker services would be banned nationwide, with the bill set to take effect within 30 days. Reports in the local press have indicated that a planned blocking of the ISP’s of unlicensed operators targeting Australian players will not take place in the immediate future.
Passage of the bill through the upper house of the Australian Parliament occurred only a week after the Senate’s Environment and Communications References Committee held the Participation of Australians in Online Poker hearing, inviting testimony from local online poker players and other interested parties who called for the game to be excluded from the iGaming ban.
The hearing asked poker players and other involved parties to voice their opinion on whether online poker should be banned and if not, why it should not be banned. Senator David Leyonhjelm has been the chief advocate for the online poker cause repeatedly arguing that online poker should be classified differently from casino games as it is a game of skill and should therefore be excluded from any ban. The senator has also been championing the development of a regulated online market comprising proper monitoring and taxation instead of a blanket ban on these services. It now seems as though those pleas have fallen on deaf ears, with many operators choosing to leave the market early in advance of the bill’s passage. PokerStars, 888poker, 32red and Gaming Innovation group have all left the Australian online poker market and no longer accept Australian players.