With the adoption of the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 by the upper house of the Australian Parliament, the land down under is effectively banning online gambling.
The ban will take effect within the next 30 days.
All unlicensed online casinos and poker venues will be prohibited from targeting Australia-based players. However, the current legislation doesn't even allow operators to apply for a license, thus making all of them operate outside the law.
Some of the operators, including 888poker, 32Red and Gaming Innovation Group had already left the Australian Market.
The Bill itself is just a part of the Government's crackdown on gambling since the recent media reform package brought further restrictions on gambling advertising.
Important Gambling Reform
Australian Minister for Human Services, Alan Tudge, said the new Bill would be complemented by other means of consumer protections, including a national self-exclusion register and a voluntary opt-out pre-commitment scheme.
According to Tudge, this set of acts is the most significant online gambling reform in the country's history, which will take severe measures against offshore gambling providers and ensure the money stays in the country.
It is estimated that on a yearly basis Australians spend between $64 million and $400 million on illegal online wagering. Also, around $100 million is spent every year on funding various services for problem gamblers.
Tudge is adamant the legislation will keep the money in the country, as well as offering additional protection for gamblers.
He said the country was losing hundreds of millions of dollars to illegal offshore gambling providers, while a portion of that money was used to fund crime syndicates. Tudge also emphasized the importance of consumer protection, since online gambling had three times the rate of problem gambling than other forms.
The Minister said the Government wanted to provide a safe gambling environment, and not to ban it altogether.
Stronger Mechanisms and Higher Penalties
Mitch Fifield, Australia's Minister for Communications stated the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) will, under the new Bill, have stronger enforcement mechanisms and the power to crack down on illegal online gambling services.
Apart from civil penalties – going from $1.35 million to $6.75 million a day, ACMA will publish the list of licensed providers in Australia. According to Fifield, this will help the players to know which sites are legal.
On the other hand, there are those who disagree with the prohibitionist approach, especially when it comes to online poker. Senator David Leyonhjelm said online poker was probably the most innocent of all gambling – more of a game of skill rather than chance.
Joseph Del Duca of the Australian Online Poker Alliance (AOPA) stated his organization would continue to fight for safe and legal online poker, as this was the only option that provided freedom for players.