Legislation bill sees gambling companies exiting Australian market

By @fangurlmary on
Gambling changes in Australia
Major gambling companies are starting to head for the next boat out of Australia following the proposal of tighter gambling regulations. Michal Parzuchowski

Major gambling companies are starting to head for the next boat out of Australia following the proposal of tighter gambling regulations. The Interactive Gambling Act, first established in 2001, is currently being amended following a report in 2015 that studied illegal online gambling. The report recommended closing certain "loopholes" that allow Australians to play on offshore poker platforms. As a consequence of this, the iPoker industry (that is, online poker gaming) will be hit hard by a total of eleven amendments being made to the existing bill.

The amendments, having already been vetted by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, have been approved. The "Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016" is waiting to be enacted. As a result, popular casino Vera & John left the AU gambling scene last year, while 888poker left in January of this year. The latter’s departure was a hard blow to online poker players, given the brand’s widespread fame. However, it is the likely exit of PokerStars, a product of Amaya Gaming, that is causing quite the stir within the poker community.

According to this PokerStars review, the casino has been offering services to Australian players under an Isle of Man license, which is perfectly legal. However, the enactment of the new legislative bill will make the regulatory conditions too harsh for the casino’s survival in Australia.

The current CFO of Amaya, Daniel Sebag, stated, "In Australia, we currently offer poker and are reviewing the applicability of proposed legislation to player-vs-player games of skill," continuing that "at this time, it would appear likely that if the legislation passes, we would block players from Australia."

Sebag added that PokerStars will move to leave the market 30 days after the bill is enacted. Speculations claim that PokerStars may leave by the end of July 2017.

As it currently stands, Australians spend more on gambling than any other population in the world, averaging $1,000 per person. An estimated 80% of the population gamble regularly. However, analysts are saying the market seems to have reached its full maturity, which means profit margins for gambling companies will not rise if they retain a strict dependency on the Australian market.

Casinos.co also stated that while major companies like Amaya will miss out on the $18 million-a-year generated by the AU market, these companies can relocate their energies to other areas like the US for a better turnover. In fact, Amaya is said to be launching in the newly regulated Portugal market.

Another major company that has declared its departure from Australia is GIG Affiliates, the affiliate branch of Gaming Innovation Group. GIG Affiliates will be redirecting Australian players to the House of Jack casino, while its iGaming brand of casinos will no longer be available for them. This is another blow to the gambling community, given that iGaming casinos are some of the most reliable and well-known around.

David Ean Leyonhjelm, a Senator for New South Wales with the Liberal Democratic Party, is vehemently against the approval of the new bill. He told the Huffington Post, "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."

Land poker playing and poker tournaments will still otherwise be in effect. Leyonhjelm has elsewhere called the Australian government a "nanny state" that would seek to control the way Australian players choose to unwind in their private time. Controversially, he has even encouraged players to set-up virtual private networks (VPNs) that can confuse geotracking and allow Australians to still play poker. However, the aftermath of the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill has yet to actually unfold.