Australia online poker is under threat of prohibition. The government is poised to enact an Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill that will outlaw the activity, and it’s already caused some major operators to evacuate the market. But the fight isn’t over just yet.
This week, Senator David Leyonhjelm (left) announced the launch of an online inquiry to discuss the pending prohibition of online poker in Australia. He’s inviting all citizens who are equally concerned about the issue to visit the specially designed website and submit their details. All who do will be contacted at a later date by officials, to which they can voice their opposition.
Sen. Leyonhjelm has opposed the ban on Australia online poker from the very beginning. He said the purpose of the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill was to shore up loop holes in the original legislation, dating back to 2001. Loop holes that international online sportsbook operators have been taking advantage of to access the market without a licence, and promote otherwise illegal services.
Instead, legislators introduced sweeping amendments that not only close up the unwanted gaps, but also threaten the legitimacy of Australia online poker sites.
“I don’t think they understood what they were doing,” said the NSW Senator, who recently spoke with the staff of pokernews.com.
The Senator’s biggest argument with the prohibition of online poker is its contradictory nature, when compared to legalized gambling activities. Poker is okay in person, but not online, despite the fact that other forms of online gambling remain perfectly acceptable.
“The fact that our country allows online sports betting and horse racing so freely, which are both truly gambling, and doesn’t allow online poker is truly embarrassing,” he said.
When the amendments were first approved in March, Sen. Leyonhejlm lobbied hard against them. His efforts were unsuccessful, but he’s not giving up yet. He believes there’s enough of an appetite among lawmakers to reconsider the ban against online poker in Australia, before it’s too late.
“If I initiate an inquiry which highlights the stupidity of the law as it stands,” he conjectured, “perhaps some changes can be implemented.”
Since March, several major poker operators have already exited the Australian market. 888 Poker and Vera&John no longer accept Aussies, while PartyPoker and PokerStars have indicated their intentions to leave if and when the IGA amendments are enacted.
Sen. Leyonhejlm’s opposition to the bill runs deep. He’s one of the primary supporters of the Australian Online Poker Alliance (AOPA), an organization made up of Australia online poker players petitioning for regulation.
The petition, known as Keep Online Poker Legal, is also an online forum where Aussie’s who oppose prohibition can gather information and contact their local representative with their concerns.
“They kicked up quite a noise in the lead-up to the vote on the bill,” said Leyonhejlm of the AOPA. “I appreciate the fact that they’re there, they’re cheering me on. And when the time comes, I know they’ll spring into gear and make their voices heard.”
AOPA spokesperson Joseph Del Duca also commented on the group’s unceasingly positive outlook. “It is amazing just how many poker players have come out and supported our fight to keep online poker in Australia,” he said.
“The support has ranged from people of all ages from right across the country,” Del Duca continues. “It just shows that poker is truly a game which can be enjoyed by everyone. This is why we are fighting so hard to keep it.”