The NSW Senator took to the floor in an attempt to have online poker and blackjack removed from the Interactive Gambling Act 2001.
The secondary amendment was among many which were introduced during the Senate debate on the Interactive Gambling Amendment bill 2016.
Senator Leyonhjelm argued despite the current law banning the Internet gambling games many Australian’s still play.
“They are entertaining games of chance and considerable skill,” he said.
“And despite the current lack of regulation – or, should I say, loophole of regulation – there is no evidence that online poker and blackjack causes more harm than the other services this bill seeks to regulate rather than prohibit, like online sports betting.”
While many who spoke on the topic supported the idea online poker was of a different nature to other gambling games, including pokies, the amendment failed with 46 against and just six for.
Senator Nick Xenophon surprisingly voiced a supportive opinion, but he still voted against.
“There does seem to be a dichotomy between poker players, who have described to me that they can bet 1 cent at a time and lose very small amounts of money in the scheme of things, and sports betting,” Senator Xenophon said.
“I do not want to be seen to be encouraging an expansion of gambling, but there is an inconsistency in the approach of the government and opposition to sports betting, where you can bet thousands of dollars at a time per game or per sporting event—per horse race—compared to online poker, where there could be some very strict limits as to what could be bet.
“It is something that needs to be debated further.”
Senator Derryn Hinch, who was one of the six for the amendment said he would support the bill if online poker was exempted, but it was not enough.
Senator Leyonhjelm has since spoken out about the amendment failure, suggesting a committee inquiry should take place.
“There appears to be enough doubt about the legislation to indicate a review of the ban on online poker may be possible,” he said.
While he said pushing for an inquiry is a lot of work, if there’s enough support, including submissions and willingness to attend committees, he will.
Joseph Del Duca from the Australian Online Poker Alliance (AOPA) also released a statement on the unfortunate move but urges people not to give up.
“One thing that all poker players should know that it doesn’t matter if you lose a big pot, as long as you have a chip and a chair you are still in the game. We are definitely still in the game,” the statement reads.
Del Duca commended the AOPA’s progress over just three short months and added they will be taking up Senator Mitch Fifield’s offer that ‘online poker was a debate for another day’.
The statement also commented on the supportive position many politicians had on online poker, reiterating Nick Xenophon’s stance as he “made clear that he understood our position in his remarks both today and when we met with him in person.”
Del Duca encourages poker enthusiasts to keep fighting for online poker as it “is not the end, this is just the beginning of a fight that we can and will win.”