Imminent changes to gambling laws in Australia has seen prominent poker provider 888Poker pull out of the market, with other services expected to do the same to avoid heavy fines.
The 2001 Interactive Gambling Act will soon be amended, enforcing licensing restrictions that will force international gambling sites to cut off services to Aussies.
It’s expected that the amendments will clarify that any and all online gambling services must have a gambling license within Australia in order to offer services to Australian players.
“Following a business reevaluation, we’d like to inform you that 888poker’s services are not being offered to players residing in Australia and therefore your account will be closed as of 16/01/2017,” the company said in an email to Australia players. “You can still withdraw funds from your bankroll at any time using our web cashier. Please check your email for more information.”
The changes to the law should come as no surprise to providers such as 888Poker, as online gambling was never actually legal in Australia, despite not being technically illegal, either: it was only a matter of time before the government tightened its grip.
There has always been a law prohibiting the operation of an online virtual casino in Australia.
However, it wasn’t illegal for international outlets to serve Australian customers.
The punishment for breaking the proposed amendment will be severe: the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) will impose fines of up to AU$1.35 million ($1 million) per day for individuals, and up to AU$ 6.75 ($5 million) for companies.
Online poker stands to be a huge loss for the poker community in Australia, which is thriving and growing.
Providers such as 888Poker and PokerStars act as a testing ground for prospective pro players, but these amendments will essentially kill the game and force players to visit land-based casinos.
Interestingly, no one seems to know when the amendments will be passed, but this hasn’t stopped companies already deciding to step away.
Amaya CFO Daniel Sebag said in a briefings call last year that the amendments would undobutedly kill online poker in Australia, and that the government should consider changing the amendment to exclude online poker.
This stands as yet another case of government overreach. In an attempt to protect punters, it is ultimately killing off an entire online community, while also forcing more people into land-based casinos. Legitimate and transparent organisations such as 888Poker and PokerStars will now be forced out of the market, inevitably replaced by underground services that put players into vulnerable positions with no protecting. At the very least, the government should look to exclude online poker sites.