Australian online poker players take the stand at vital hearing

TAGs: Australia, Australian Online Poker Alliance

The founder of The Australian Online Poker Alliance (AOPA) has told poker players that a recent inquiry to ascertain the future of online poker in Australia was a success.

Game of Thrones character Jorah Mormont has six months before greyscale hides his flesh forever, and turns his mind to mush. Beyond that point, he becomes a Stone Man, and the same fate awaits online poker in Australia.

In March, the Australian government decided it was time to crackdown on the proliferation of in-play online gambling. The result was The Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill, but the giant net the bill makers cast over the online gambling industry inadvertently dragged online poker into the draft law along with the other starfish.

Poker lover Joseph Del Duca formed The Australian Online Poker Alliance (AOPA) to try and make the politicians see the illogical nature of packing online poker into the same box as online sports betting. Del Duca found support throughout the online poker industry, and within the Senate, as Liberal Democrat, David Leyonhjelm, took the corner of Del Duca, in their fight to allow Australians to make their own mind up about the perils of playing online poker.

Australian online poker players take the stand at vital hearingThe blankness that greeted Del Duca and Leyonhjelm’s attempts to separate online poker from the bill was startling. Online poker in Australia was dead. And then, a few breaths seeped from the mouth of the game. Leyonhjelm managed to persuade the government to hold an inquiry about the inclusion of online poker by a 46 v 22 vote.

The task of resolving the issue fell to The Environment, and Communications References Committee, and Del Duca rallied his troops for one final charge up the hill.

The Inquiry 

The inquiry took place, Monday 1 August.

Representing the committee were Jonathan Duniam, Cory Bernardi, David Whish-Wilson, and Leyonhjelm.

Those providing evidence for online poker included Del Duca, Australian online poker players Oliver Gill-Gaber, James Devine, Daniel Laidlaw, and the World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet winner, Luke Brabin.

The two gambling experts taking the stand were Professor Alex Blaszczynski, Director of the University of Sydney’s Gambling and Treatment Clinic and Chairman of the Responsible Gambling Research Group, and Dr Sally Gainsbury, a psychologist with a decade of experience in the field of responsible gambling strategies and harm minimisation, polices.

You can read the full transcript of the discussion here.

Here is my two pennies worth.

Will a Legal Online Poker Framework Increase Problem Gambling? 

The committee were seeking evidence that online poker doesn’t overly exacerbate gambling problems. Professor Blaszczynski, expressed his concern that poker players would simply move to unregulated poker sites, and the risks that involves, but also stated that by creating a framework to play online poker legally, it will encourage more people to gamble.

Both Blaszczynski and Dr Sally Gainsbury, added that their evidence suggests that the percentage of problem gamblers who cite online poker as their trigger, is one of the lowest within the gambling sphere.

Marketing & Advertising 

There was a lot of talk about the aggressive marketing and advertisement to promote sports betting and horse racing, and the need to slow down that particular pinwheel, if online poker was to undergo regulation, and licensing. Gainsbury expressed her concern over the impact advertising has on increased gambling participation, and subsequent problems, and wanted rules put in place to ensure online poker didn’t suffer a similar fate.

Evidence was also produced to show that the average age of online poker players was 39-years-old, shifting the perception that legalising online poker would lead to a raft of teenage sign-ups, and unpaid credit card bills

The Speed of the Game 

Gainsbury spoke of the prevalence of mobile gambling, and game speed being an important cog in the gambling addiction wheel. With online poker operators moving more towards faster, and more luck-based games, is this going to make legislation more difficult in regions such as Australia, and the United States?

“When you have mobile apps you speed up the play and change the features of poker, and it can change the extent to which it is related to problems.” – Dr Sally Gainsbury. 

There was also several intimations that tournament poker, is preferable to cash game poker, because of the increased probability of developing a gambling problem in the latter.

My favourite reason for allowing online poker to remain legal in Australia came from Leyonhjelm, who is fast become my favourite advocate for online poker anywhere in the world.

The suggestion might be that, if someone is playing poker—whether down at the pub, at the club or even online—they’re not drinking, they’re not beating their wife or their wife’s not beating the children, their husband or something along those lines. They’re not engaging in destructive behaviour. Would you accept that that’s a possibility?” David Leyonhjelm. 

I have never heard the reduction in wife beating as a benefit for legalising online poker before.

Wife beating or no wife beating, AOPA founder, Joseph Del Duca believes the hearing was a resounding success for Australian online poker players.

“It’s the first time in history that Australian Poker players have had the chance to stand up for the game we love. It was a significant day and as, a community we should be proud of how we handled it’.” 

The committee has until Sep 21 to respond.

And with that, online poker continues to breathe heavily through the nose, rag stuffed in its mouth, preventing the screams, as people who love the game try to carve it out of the decay like Sam Tarly did for Mr Mormont.


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