Industry news

Australian Parliament Closes Loophole in Online Poker and In-Play Betting Laws

Industry news

Australian Parliament Closes Loophole in Online Poker and In-Play Betting Laws

The Australian federal parliament recently closed loopholes in Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016. The amendments closed loopholes which allowed online poker, so now interactive poker is banned in Australia.


The 2001 Interactive Gambling Act was supposed to banned casino table games like roulette and blackjack, along with poker. Fifteen years later, the 2016 Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill was supposed to do the same. In both cases, loopholes still existed, so the national parliament removed those loopholes in late-March.


David Leyonhjelm on Online Poker Law

Senator David Leyonhjelm of the Liberal Democrat Party was a vocal opponent of the changes. Sen. Leyonhjem said the new bill is ineffective and unnecessary. He even suggested it was a little hypocritical.


David Leyonhjelm told Huffington Post Australia of the latest changes to federal online gambling laws, “It’s stupid. If you want to play poker, there are lots of opportunities in Australia, at casinos and tournaments. 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.”


The senator, whose party is in the opposition, said that dedicated poker players are going to find a way to gamble online. The new bill only pushes online betting further underground, which means players have fewer responsible gaming resources. It is a classic argument for regulations over bans, because banning an activity only strengthens the hands of illegal operators.


Aussie Senator: “It Will Promote the Black Market”

Leyonhjelm said, “It will promote the black market. There are ways to circumvent these prohibition approaches. People will gamble using foreign providers by various means. They will be in the hands of sometimes shady providers, and if they get ripped off, they will have no recourse.”


“The original 2001 law was meant to stop online gambling of many kinds, but it didn’t, there was a loophole. 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.”


Live Sports Betting Bet

Live sports betting, often referred to as “in-play betting”, was banned under the new law. In-play betting is a way for gamblers on smartphones to make many bets during a single sporting event. The punter can make a series of lone prop bets throughout the game or match, as the game situations evolves. Problem gambling activists complain that in-play betting is more dangerous than traditional sports bets, because of the frequency with which they are made.


They the law originally was written, players were allowed to make “click-to-call” bets. These essentially were sports wagers made over the phone, using the old-style phone-in betting system. The idea behind click-to-call betting was the phone calls slowed down the betting process, as the parliament explained in its new law.


Parliament’s Explanatory Memorandum

When the parliament amended the IGA Bill 2016, it wrote an explanatory opinion with the legislation. The explanatory memorandum said, “This is because a conversation with the operator, during which the customer has to provide identification and betting information, slows the betting process and thereby reduces the scope for problem gambling, one of the objectives of the IGA.”


Because phone wagers were allowed, online sportsbooks exploited a loophole to offer the in-play betting. The new legislation closes that loophole, or at least seeks to do so.


David Leyonhjelm on In-Play Betting Laws

Senator David Leyonhjelm said the in-play betting ban is ill-considered, too. He said that the United Kingdom handles live sports betting the right way. The UK Gambling Commission regulates in-play betting, which allows it to collect revenues on the gaming action, protect its citizens, and track the gaming operators. The way Australian plans to handle in-play betting is only going to push gambling addiction into the shadows, where problem gamblers will be more vulnerable.


The senator from New South Wales said, “In the UK, there are licensed providers of in-play betting and the government taxes them. They raised hundreds of millions in revenue last year. They are also able to audit the betting, to link sports events being rigged and correlate that back to activity, to follow the money trail. The ban on in-play betting is meant to stop corruption of sport. If that happens now, we may never know.”


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