Online Gambling In Australia Now Outlawed

After a five-month period of review, the Senate in Australia has approved Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016. This outlaws internet poker and in-play sports betting.

A growing number of Australian conservative MPs have been pushing for the government to take a harder line on online gambling. The introduction of the amendments was back in November 2016 by Alan Tudge. Minister for Human Services, following a Review of Illegal Offshore Wagering in 2015. Which recommended the tightening up of federals laws on online gambling.

Exodus

It is predicted that this development will cause gambling companies, unwilling to continue operating in a ‘grey’ or ‘black’ market, to take their businesses out of Australia. The exodus has already begun with Vera&John, the online bingo company, pulling the plug on operations in December of last year and industry giants PokerStars and 888Poker following suit with announcements of their intention to leave. More are likely to follow.

Some of the major players in the market had been taking advantage of a technical loophole. Whereby punters could place in-play bets. These take place once a sports fixture has already started. For instance by phone through ‘click to call’ services on websites and apps.

Opposition to the amendments

Australian Liberal Democrat Senator, David Leyonhjelm, has been very vocal in his opposition. To what he described as “stupid” changes in the law. He went on to tell HuffPost Australia. “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.”

Does the ban mean less corruption?

There is a concern that the amendments will encourage those who still determin to play online poker or to continue in-play sports betting, to use unauthorised sites. They could do so through the use of off-shore accounts and virtual private networks (VPNs). It effectively forces them onto a black market where they are more likely to deal with untrustworthy overseas companies. They will, of course, have no recourse in the event of being defrauded by disreputable operators.

The main objection to in-play betting is that it could be a major contributing factor in match-fixing and it has been illegal for a number of years. The new amendments have effectively closed this loop-hole.

Leyonhjelm has countered this argument offering the view that match-fixing is much more likely to occur in an unregulated black market. He also cites the example of the UK. Where there are license providers of in-play betting which contribute hundreds of millions of tax revenue for the government and are subject to audit to stop corruption.

More details about the bill can be found here in the explanatory memorandum.