Gambling is a widely enjoyed pastime in Australian culture, but it’s easy to be confused if you’re an Aussie Internet user as to the legality of gambling online in the country today.
First and foremost, it’s important to note that it is 100% legal for Australian residents to place real money bets at online casinos, online poker and bingo rooms and online sports betting sites. However, as part of a wider effort by the government to revamp the country’s market, Australia recently introduced new online gambling legislation that requires operators in the country to acquire local licenses or face the prospect of heavy fines.
Other measures include a ban on in-play betting apps, a crackdown on internationally licensed operators and the establishment of a National Consumer Protection Framework (NCPF).
One consequence of these new measures is that it’s likely that there will be a mass exodus of gambling companies from the country, with a number of firms having already withdrawn or indicated that they will be doing so.
Online bingo operator Vera & John ceased their Australian operations back in December 2016, 888Poker confirmed its departure earlier in 2017 and PokerStars also previously announced its intention to leave should the amendments gain approval.
Although sports betting will still be permitted (so there should be no real impact on any betting offer sites, for example, this free bets list by aussiefreebet.com.au), the amended law confirms the nationwide ban on any form of in-play wagering. Previously a number of operators have been using a technical loophole to offer in-play betting via telephone, rather than online.
As a result of the law changes, consumers that currently play online poker and place in-play bets on sports, and who wish to continue doing so, will now be forced to turn to unauthorised websites.
That would suggest that, although the need to protect punters (particularly those with gambling problems) is obviously of paramount importance, this doesn’t appear to be the best thought through piece of legislation.
Alan Tudge, Australian Minister for Human Services, claimed that as a result of the new amendments, “We expect online wagering providers to meet community expectations; the tougher laws will seriously disrupt illegal offshore providers from acting unscrupulously or targeting vulnerable Australians.
“The government is committed to taking tougher action against illegal offshore wagering providers and this bill does exactly that.”
The reality is that these new amendments could actually end up benefiting some of the less desirable offshore bookies, whilst driving out many of the more reputable businesses (as mentioned previously).
Australian Senator David Leyonhjelm, who was openly opposed to the amendments, told HuffPost Australia that the law changes are “stupid” and that punters that wish to continue playing will find ways of doing so, outside of the legal system.
“It’s stupid; if you want to play poker, there are lots of opportunities in Australia, at casinos and tournaments,” Leyonhjelm said. “It’s not as if there isn’t a great deal of poker playing already, but they’re just stopping it online. The whole world is online now. There is quite an active online poker community in Australia; I don’t think it will succeed for those really determined. If you have a [virtual private network] or offshore account, you will still play. It’s a stupid situation to be in.”
He’s got a point, with the irony being that by prohibiting online poker and other forms of Internet gambling, the Australian government is in danger of exposing its players to the predatory operators on the black market, instead of protecting them from these very same companies.