And so the battle to stop online gaming continues.
The latest in a seemingly futile push to stop the inevitable comes from Down Under. Australia, who has been battling online poker over the last couple years, has banned it. It all began with a review of their offshore betting laws back in 2015 and then that review has paved the way for the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill of 2016, which has now led to the banning of online poker and some other gaming activities. The government feels like they scored a huge win for their side but a lot of people are not happy with the decision.
From a technical standpoint, what the government has done is close a couple of loopholes in what was originally named the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001. Those loopholes had been a wide enough window to allow online poker and similar games to continue. However, that is over after legislators drafted their amendment. Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm said what a number of people had been thinking when he claimed that the move was “stupid”. Echoing the sentiments of many, the Senator understands that while the rest of the world is seemingly moving towards legalizing online poker, Australia, which has a massive fan base for poker, will be heading in the opposite direction.
The government has also closed up the loopholes that allowed online live sports betting to flourish in the country. Now players won’t be allowed to bet on games that have already started as the government feels that match-fixing could be an issue. Of course, anyone familiar with in-game betting knows just how farfetched that sounds. Prior to this, players could simply do their live betting over the phone, which wasn’t covered in the 2001 act. It also allowed online betting sites to have their “click to call” button, which was a call to action for players to talk to someone and place their bets, but now “click to call” has been disallowed. The Australian government is leaving no stone unturned in their battle to stop online betting of all kinds.
However, Senator Leyonhjelm feels as though this is only going to power the black market as players are going to play their games – whether the government likes it or not. Anyone who has lived in the United States knows this to be true. It’s possible that some online companies will still operate in the darkness and players will play when possible, as long as payment processors aren’t targeted. That’s always tough to do; the government may shut down major credit cards, but with the growth of Bitcoin players can probably still play to some extent.
Some people in government feel that the country is really missing out on a good opportunity. Like the United Kingdom, Australia could have taxed licensed operators and brought in revenue. At the same time, they could make sure that players are using a secure site. Now the black market will take over and whatever happens, happens.
Of course, there is always a chance to change things, but the Australian government has been trying to get this done for at least two years now and they see this as a big win. It’ll take a significant ideological shift for things to move in the opposite direction.