By Ben Blaschke
The latest push by supporters of a legalized and regulated online poker industry in Australia has failed to win parliamentary support after a senate inquiry found that further research is needed.
The report into the Participation of Australians in Online Poker report, published this week, ultimately provided little in the way of progress with its two final recommendations including a call for the Department of Social Services to “support research into the impact of regulatory approaches on online poker, including the relative benefits and harms associated with prohibition and legalization.”
It also recommended that “any future consideration of the legalization of online poker should only occur following the complete implementation of the National Consumer Protection Framework.”
The inquiry into the Participation of Australians in Online Poker was the result of a motion put forward by Senators David Leyonhjelm from the Liberal Democratic Party and Cory Bernardi from the Australian Conservatives and followed approval in August of the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016, which closed a number of loopholes that had previously allowed unlicensed online operators to offer their services to Australians.
A number of online poker sites, including PokerStars, have since withdrawn real money services from Australia.
The inquiry set out to examine the participation of Australians in online poker; the nature and extent of any personal or social harms and benefits arising from participating in online poker; and whether the current regulatory approach, in particular, the recently amended Interactive Gambling Act 2001, is a reasonable and proportionate response to those harms and benefits.
But despite receiving a total of 266 submissions and 29 short statements, the inquiry failed to come to any decisive conclusion as to the future of a regulated online poker industry.
Founder of the Australian Online Poker Alliance, Joseph Del Duca, told Inside Asian Gaming that a regulated online poker industry remains the most effective means of protecting players.
“The report confirms that poker is a peer to peer game of mixed skill and chance with a very low prevalence of problem gambling,” he said. “The report also makes clear that prohibition of online poker does not work, all it does is push Australian players to unscrupulous black market operators.
“We can confirm that this is already the case. Even though the ban was introduced months ago, the majority of Australian players have not stopped playing but have just moved their play to operators who have deliberately chosen to defy Australian law.
“If these operators don’t care for our laws, how likely is it that they will care for our citizens? It is only a matter of time before something goes wrong and Australians are significantly hurt by this government ban.
“The Australian Online Poker Alliance calls on the Australian Government to act quickly to legalize online poker and remove Aussie players from harm’s way. Only a safe, regulated online poker market can provide the consumer protections and freedom of choice that Australian poker players deserve.”