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Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 – A New Landscape For Online Gambling In Australia

Australian FlagSince 2001, the Interactive Gambling Act has been the overarching law on online gambling. 16 years later, it is obvious that the law is outdated. The original law blocked Australian-based iGaming brands from servicing residents. Only sports betting sites were clarified as legal, leaving online casinos and poker in a gray area. Legal Australian gambling sites operating offshore have serviced the Aussie online gambling community with online casino games, poker and sports betting in the over 10 years since the IGA’s enactment.

A much-anticipated revision of the IGA is finally set to become law, dramatically modifying existing Australian online gambling laws and changing the gambling landscape in the nation to be much more rigid. The Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 has successfully made its way through the Australian House, Senate and has now received a Royal Assent from Governor Peter Cosgrove, the final piece needed to become law. The amendment imposes a strict ban on international iGaming brands, essentially making it illegal for Australian punters to place bets at offshore casinos and poker sites. Unfortunately, the law fails to include provisions on how interested parties can apply for approval to enter the Aussie market.

With this amendment, Aussie punters are left high and dry when it comes to iGaming outside of sports betting. Most big-name iGaming providers have already pulled out of the Australian gambling sector, with some like 888Poker leaving before the legislation even passed through the lower house. Others began to follow suit in anticipation of the law. PokerStars, arguably one of the most well-known brands in the industry, remained present throughout the duration of the legislative process, but recently issued a statement to its Aussie clients saying they would be withdrawing from the market sometime in September.

Is There Any Hope For Australian iGaming?

The looming ban threatens to essentially cut off punters from any sort of iGaming. However, there is a chance the ban could be overturned. The Australian Senate’s Environment and Communications References Committee issued an inquiry into the online poker market. The committee heard from local punters, fellow lawmakers and other stakeholders on the current state of the country’s online poker industry. Arguments were presented to the committee as to why a legalized online poker network would be more beneficial to the nation as opposed to the strict ban set to be enacted. This committee is preparing a report on the details of their findings and are set to publish it by September. If the committee suggests that iGaming is indeed more beneficial, it is possible that online gambling, at least online poker, could make a comeback. The report could pressure the Commonwealth to overturn or amend the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill. If the bill were to be overturned, then licensed offshore Australian online casinos, poker sites and sportsbooks could remain in the Aussie market.

Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill FAQ's

Does The Amendment Make It Illegal For Australian Residents to Participate In Online Casino Or Poker Gambling?

Yes. Under the new ban, Aussie players will be unable to legally participate in online casino or poker gambling via offshore brands. Offshore sports betting, bingo gaming and lottery ticket purchases are unaffected by the bill.

Are There Options?

It depends on whether the iGaming brand accepts players from Australia. If they do, Aussie players may engage with them at their own risk. We do not condone any sort of illegal online gambling and are not responsible for legal actions taken against Australian players. It is a realistic assumption that Australia does not have the means or resources to monitor national internet use to identify individuals accessing licensed online gambling sites. Is getting caught likely? No. Can we say it is an absolute impossibility? No. Even if the risk is minute, we cannot deny that it exists.

Are There Still Land-Based Casino And Poker Options For Punters?

Yes. The Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill strictly applies to iGaming. Aussie players can still gamble at local pokies and casinos. Regional gambling laws are responsible for governing land based gambling entertainment.

What Types Of Online Gambling Are Permitted By The Amendment?

Domestic online sports betting is still legal for Australian bettors, as long as bets are placed prior to the beginning of the event. Live betting is not an option, as it is considered a form of interactive gambling. Online sportsbooks must be licensed and connected to a brick-and-mortar bookmaker located in Australia. Online bingo, known as housies, and online Lottery games are permitted under the amendment. Offshore sportsbooks, bingo sites and lottery agents seem to still be accessible by Australian citizens.

Is There Any Chance The Gambling Laws Change In The Future?

If the Australian Senate’s Environment and Communications References Committee’s report suggests that iGaming would be better legalized, it is possible the law is amended to authorize online poker. Online casinos may take some more time to reenter the Aussie gaming industry.

We cannot predict the future, but is possible that after some time, the Australian government will decide it to be in their best interest to allow international iGaming brands to service Aussie players. iGaming operators like 888Poker and PokerStars would certainly make a return, as Australia presents a significant player pool, and the government could impose regulatory requirements that funnel money from offshore brands back into the nation.

Has There Been Blowback On This Amendment?

Yes, hence the inquiry from the Australian Senate. The local online poker community rallied to build support for the industry in hopes of showing why it should be legalized. The Australian Online Poker Alliance worked to build media attention for the cause and ultimately led to the iGaming community being able to voice their opinions to the Senate.

Citations

Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016