An online poker ban took another step towards becoming law in Australia this week. The Australia Senate voted to make all online poker illegal through an amendment to the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001 and the Australian Communications and Media Authority Act of 2005, according to Online Poker Report.
Current Australian law forbids companies located on the continent from offering online poker. This created a loophole that allowed offshore sites access to the Australian online gambling market without any local competition or taxes paid. Most major poker sites and networks accepted players from Australia after the Interactive Gambling Ace became law in 2001. The amendment approved by the Senate would ban all forms of online poker, regardless of where the company offering it is located.
888 left the Australian market in January in preparation of this change in policy. PokerStars and most other sites remained. Many are waiting to see when it becomes law. The bill must pass the House of Representatives. It is expected to do so.
The amendment would permit the blacklist of IP addresses of sites that continue to accept players from Australia. It would also create fines for offenders as well as travel bans related to individuals related to companies that accept online poker players from Australia.
Online poker is not the only target of the Interactive Gambling Act amendment. In-play betting on sports would also be banned. This is where players make a wager on a game that is in progress. There is a belief among gaming regulators in Australia that permitting in-play may compromise the outcomes of games. In-play is currently permitted by phone through a loophole in the Interactive Gambling Act.
There will still be some sites that remain in the Australian market. These will not be ones licensed in jurisdictions with a history of strict regulation. Most will be poker sites that are licensed in places like Curacao, home to the Lock Poker and Cake Poker debacles, or hold no license at all. As Americans have found out, prohibition only creates a larger black market.