The Australian online poker community was dealt the worst possible hand last week when the Australian Senate ignored the online poker inquiry and passed the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016.
The legislation changes prohibit offshore online gambling operators from accepting Australians. Even reputable operators licensed in advanced gambling jurisdictions, like the UK, have been banned.
Poker and other online gambling operators have already exited the market including 888Poker, 32Red and the Gaming Innovation Group.
Karamba casino, owned by ASG Technologies Ltd has announced it would be exiting the market too. From Wednesday onwards, Australian players can not register at Karamba – players should withdraw any funds as soon as possible.
PokerStars said it would remain in the Australian market until the government enforced the reforms.
Last week, the Senate passed the IGA Bill in a blink of an eye despite the ongoing online poker inquiry.
Just a week earlier Senator David Leyonhjelm ran a Senate inquiry into the nature of online poker. The Australian Online Poker Alliance (AOPA) was among the supporters who want the government to realise poker is a game of skill, not luck.
The poker inquiry was pushed aside during the debate before the gambling reforms passed the Senate.
PokerStars emailed its Australian customers to let them know it would be withdrawing in mid-September. The company, owned by The Stars Group, added that it would be watching the Australian market for future legal opportunities.
“We’re proud to have seen the Australian poker community grow so strong over the last decade,” the email read.
“We do respect the Australian Government’s decision in taking steps to protect consumers and hope that in time we’ll be able to serve real money poker to you again.”
Australians have one month to get their affairs in order and withdraw any funds. You can enjoy your last hand or two of online poker too.
“Your funds are, and will continue to be, safe and available for withdrawal,” the email to players read.
“Remember to open any unopened Stars Rewards Chests you have, and you can continue to spend your StarsCoin in the Rewards Store.
“A $1 Cash Rebate has been added to facilitate converting your StarsCoin to cash.
“Any tournament tickets and tournament money will be converted to cash for withdrawal, effective from the market exit date.”
You can find out more by visiting the FAQ page on the PokerStars website.
The only way PokerStars could return to Australia is if the government introduced legislation to legalise online poker.
The AOPA commented on the gambling reforms on its Facebook page stating that passing the IGA Bill “without waiting for the outcome of the Senate Inquiry was very disappointing for Australian Poker Players.”
Commenters have lashed out at the decision with one questioning why he can legally waste money on a luck-based game like Keno.
Professional poker player, Jackie Glazier, also commented on the post praising creator of the AOPA, Joseph Del Duca.
“Although this is so so so disappointing I want to say how proud I am of the Australian poker community. We banded together and fought hard,” she said.
“A big thank you to Joseph Del Duca who has tirelessly given everything to this fight.
“Keep strong everyone, let’s not give up! It may take some time but hopefully, together we can continue to fight to bring back the game we all love!”
Another commenter pointed out that the “welfare of Aussies only comes under threat when the government gets no profit from it” given pokies, racing and other forms of gambling remain legal.
The IGA also bans click to call betting and Australian licensed bookies from offering lines of credit to their customers.
Mr Del Duca revealed that he would be continuing to fight for a regulated online poker industry.