Australian Online Poker Exemption Rejected By Senate, Passes Bill Ensuring Demise

Posted on: March 21, 2017, 06:00h. 

Last updated on: March 21, 2017, 06:11h.

The Australian Senate hammered the penultimate nail into the coffin of online poker on Tuesday. Lawmakers rejected a carve-out amendment, proposed by Liberal Democratic Party Senator David Leyonhjelm, that would have saved the game in the country.

Instead they chose to pass a proposed amendment to the 2001 Interactive Gambling Act (IGA). The amendment has the indirect effect of banning not just online poker but in-play sports betting and online casino gaming too.

Senator David Leyonhjelm
Senator David Leyonhjelm’s attempt to intervene to save online poker in Australia has failed as his carve-out amendment did not pass and now the game will be illegal on the internet. He branded the situation “stupid.” (Image:

The amendment seeks to make it more difficult for unlicensed operators to target Australian residents by clarifying that only operators that hold a license in Australia will be able to legally offer their services.

But since Australia has no licensing framework for online poker or online casino, just sports betting, sites like PokerStars and 888 have no option but to quit the market or break the law.

No License for Online Poker

Clarity was required because the IGA permitted only “licensed operators” to engage with the market, but failed to say where those operators needed to be licensed, offering some legally gray wiggle room for online poker sites to operate.

Sites like PokerStars and 888 are, of course, licensed in multiple jurisdictions around the world, just not Australia, because there is no such thing as an Australian online poker license.

The new amendment will make Australia a black market for online poker, and continuing to offer games in the country will result in hefty fines for operators, and potentially jeopardize their licensing in other jurisdictions.

From the Senate, the legislation will move to the House of Representatives, which is expected to vote it into law.

Leyonhjelm has Harsh Words

“It’s stupid,” Leyonhjelm told The Huffington Post Australia. “If you want to play poker, there are lots of opportunities in Australia, at casinos and tournaments. 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.

“The original 2001 law was meant to stop online gambling of many kinds, but it didn’t, there was a loophole. 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 VPN or offshore account, you will still play. It’s a stupid situation to be in,” he said.

888 left the Australian market in 2016 in anticipation of the bill becoming law. PokerStars execs have said they expect to do so too, but will likely wait until its enactment.

For Australia’s poker players they will soon have little option but to give up playing online or seek out the black market, where they will be denied the player protections the departed major online poker sites would have guaranteed.