Australia approves amendments to online gambling laws

21 March 2017

The Australian Senate has given its approval to a number of amendments to the country’s online gambling laws that are set to outlaw internet poker and in-play sports betting.

Submitted to the Senate in November, the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 includes legislation that bans all internet gaming activities not specifically authorised within the new national codes, such as online poker.

Although sports betting will remain authorised, the amended law reiterates the nationwide ban on any form of in-play wagering.

A number of major operators have been offering in-play betting via a technical loophole where players could place an in-play wager via telephone, rather than online.

It is thought the move could trigger a mass exodus of gambling companies from the country, with a number of firms having already withdrawn.

Online bingo operator Vera&John was the first to cease operations in Australia back in December, while 888Poker confirmed its exit in January and PokerStars also previously announced its intention to leave should the amendments gain approval.

As a result of the law changes, consumers that currently play online poker and place in-play bets on sports, and wish to continue doing so, will be forced to turn to unauthorised websites.

Australian Senator David Leyonhjelm, who spoke openly about his opposition to the amendments, told HuffPost Australia that the law changes are “stupid” and that punters that wish to continue playing will find ways of doing so, outside of the legal system.

“It’s stupid; if you want to play poker, there are lots of opportunities in Australia, at casinos and tournaments,” Leyonhjelm said.

“It’s not as if there isn’t a great deal of poker playing already, but they’re just stopping it online. The whole world is online now.

“There is quite an active online poker community in Australia; I don’t think it will succeed for those really determined.

“If you have a [virtual private network] or offshore account, you will still play. It’s a stupid situation to be in.”

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