The deadline for people to provide the Environment And Communications References Committee with submissions declaring the irrationality of banning online poker in Australia has passed, leaving the fate of the game in the hands of a bunch of people who probably know nothing about the game.
The tombstone has its epitaph.
Here lies online poker in Australia, a game that was in the right place, at the wrong time.
The lights are out.
But there is a chance of resurrection.
Australian Online Poker Alliance (AOPA) founder Joseph Del Duca and his buddies are rubbing the defibrillator paddles, connecting jumper cables, and loading the syringe with adrenaline in the hope for a recovery of Lazarus proportions.
In March 2017, Australia’s federal parliament successfully plugged the leaks in the 2001 Interactive Gambling Act that allowed Aussie punters to bet on sporting events during play. Unfortunately, for online poker players, the uneducated very important people who created the bill happened to believe that bets taken on the flop, turn, and river in a game of online poker also constitutes in-play gambling and proposed to take the axe to the jugular vein of our great game.
888Poker and partypoker jumped into their oil drums and began paddling away from the country as fast as they could. PokerStars is still searching for their oars. Joseph Del Duca created AOPA as a form of stubborn resistance, and Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm told anyone within earshot that the notion online poker could be a part of this bill was absurd and would benefit nobody except offshore operators willing to tiptoe along the tightrope of the new law.
Leyonhjelm did manage to convince the very important people in parliament that they should take a second look at the decision to kill online poker. The job of review landed on the marble desks of the Environment And Communications References Committee and anyone wanting to prove to them that banning online poker was akin to banning taco joints in LA had until July 21 to post submissions.
That date is now ancient history.
In a thread on 2+2, posters representing AOPA believe between 50-200 submissions have been made. Amongst them is a submission from Dr Sally Gainsbury, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney, and one of the world’s foremost experts on problem gambling, who is doing everything in her power to persuade the committee that online poker produces a meagre rate of problem gambling.
Looking through the submissions, it seems online poker’s case rests alongside the following bullet points:
• Australian poker players are big boys and girls and reserve the right to do what the hell they like with their money as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else
• The ability to offer online poker to players based in Australia is a privilege and not a right, and operators should pay for this privilege, thus creating a sizeable revenue stream for the government
• There is a low prevalence of problem gambling as a net result of online poker, backed up by research undertaken by numerous countries around the world, including the UK.
• Online poker is a skill-based game that operates on a peer-to-peer basis, and not versus the house.
• Prohibition doesn’t work. Online poker will not die, but regulated online poker will be replaced by dodgy offshore operators
PokerStars, have been very active in their support of Australian online poker players, but I am unsure whether they supplied a submission to the Committee or were even allowed?
The job of the committee is to determine:
1. The participation of Australians in online poker
2. The nature and extent of any personal or social harms and benefits arising from participating in online poker; and
3. Whether the current regulatory approach, in particular, the recently amended Interactive Gambling Act 2001, is a reasonable and proportionate response to those harms and benefits
The committee reports back on 14 Sep 2017.
Earlier this month, Costa-Rica based Ignition Casino, announced plans to take advantage of the mess by moving into the grey market and offering online poker and casino games to Australians.
In an article penned for PokerNews, by Michael Josem, the former PokerStars Communications expert, noted that Senator Mitch Fifield stressed that it has always been the view of government that online poker is illegal, and they had no plans to liberalise the game in the foreseeable future.
So that’s it, then.
The only thing that Australian based poker players can do is pray to the Poker Gods that one of those important looking people in the Environment And Communications References Committee cares enough to change the epitaph on the headstone to something less sombre.