Australian Senate consults players over online poker ban

  • Australian government proposes a ban on online poker
  • Earlier this month professional poker players were consulted

It’s no secret that Australians enjoy a wager – last year they wbet more per capita than any other nation – and yet at the same time the government continues to crack down on gambling. In particular, it has targeted online betting, with poker singled out for restrictions.

While all signs point towards the mooted online poker ban coming into effect, the Australian Senate has made overtures to poker players, going so far as to solicit their thoughts on the matter.

The answer to this consultation seems like an obvious one – Aussie players don’t want a ban on poker – but the fact that Senators are willing to hear their arguments at least bodes well. It seems unlikely however that the late intervention of poker aficionados will be enough to stall the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill (IGAB).

Online poker in Australia

Before the Australian government performed a volte-face, poker flourished in the country, with operators such as 888Poker, Party Poker and PokerStars only too happy to fuel Aussies’ appetite for all things poker.

The country had over 130,000 online poker players, a number that was growing steadily until the government put the brakes on. In a desperate attempt to prevent IGAB passing into law, the Australian Online Poker Alliance (AOPA) was formed. In a battle of the acronyms, AOPA, led by supporter Senator David Leyonhjelm, has battled aggressively against IGAB in an effort to prevent the amendment being passed.

In a last-ditch bid to delay the bill with a view to ultimately torpedoing it, the Australian Senator has succeeded in passing a motion by 46 votes to 22 that a campaign should be launched seeking online poker players’ thoughts on the matter.

Public hearing held

Following the motion passing in the Senate, a public hearing was held at the start of August. Several poker players met with Senate members and freely shared their views. Senators Leyonhjelm, David Whish-Wilson, Jonathan Duniam and Cory Bernadi appeared to represent the Senate while the poker community was represented by Daniel Laidlaw, James Devine, Oliver Gill-Gaber and Luke Brabin, the latter a WSOP bracelet holder.

Eager to get all sides of the story, and to explore the positive and negative aspects of online betting, the Senators also spoke to Professor Alex Blaszczynski and Dr Sally Gainsbury, both psychologists, as well as mathematics professor Brian Alspach.

The committee will submit a report on September 21. That’s when Aussie poker players will be collectively intaking their breath and waiting to see whether there’s any prospect of delaying, amending or overturning IGAB and safeguarding the future of online poker.

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