The move was terrible news for Aussie poker players, who immediately compared Tuesday to the infamous American Black Friday. It’s also likely to accelerate the pace of online poker operators, like 888 Poker, who are shuttering their Australia-facing operations.
For outsiders, the move seemed somewhat bizarre. After all, how did online poker get banned as the result of a bill meant to crack down on match fixing and close loopholes in Aussie sports betting regulations?
The devil, it seemed, was in the details.
Australian lawmakers got in board with the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 because they wanted to close a loophole in current regulations that allowed sports betting operators to skirt a prohibition on in-play wagering.
In doing so, they also made an attempt to stay ahead of future loopholes by also banning all form of online gambling, “currently not legal in Australia.” Unfortunately, that includes online poker, which is not currently legal in Australia. (Though until the passage of this bill, it was not explicitly illegal, either.)
While online poker is no longer legal, it continues to have supporters in Parliament including Senator David Leyonhjelm who told fellow lawmakers:
Online poker is not a spectator sport. Nobody tries to fix a cricket match as part of a poker game. There is no public interest in banning it. It’s insane that it even got caught up with it.Banning live betting on the Internet in this country will have no more impact on match fixing than banning the production of pornography in Australia would have on the availability of porn, the Internet just doesn’t work that way.
Leyonhjelm’s analysis is, of course, spot on. As regulated, publicly traded online poker operators exit the Australian market, there’s no shortage of black market operators waiting in the wings to take their places.