It has been a few turbulent years for Australian online poker and the poker landscape altogether has changed dramatically. Things are still moving and shifting and we would like to update you on the history and current state of Australian poker.
Online poker has been a heavily debated subject in Australia beginning a few years back when the Australian Commonwealth Parliament passed the Interactive Gambling Act (IGA) which forbid online gambling operators to advertise for and offer real money online interactive gambling to Australian citizens. This law however, remained confusing and was filled with loopholes as offshore operators such as PokerStars and 888poker were still allowed to service Australians throughout the period.
It was not until 2017 when online poker was outright banned through the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill passed by the Australian Senate which imposed hefty fines on participating individuals and organizations.
This regulation pushed leading online platforms to leave the Australian market while new competitors such as Ignition Casino were introduced to fill in the gap of customer demands.
Soon after, mobile applications operating on a play-money currency werewelcomed to the market as well and received tremendous success. With limited real money options, Pokerbros, PPPoker and UPoker are beginning to dominate the market while avoiding legal issues brought by restrictive gambling regulations and providing players with a highly accessible alternative to playing poker.
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The Australian Commonwealth Parliament passed the Interactive Gambling Act (IGA) in 2001. This law forbid online gambling operators to advertise for and offer real money online interactive gambling (such as poker and casino) to Australian citizens.
However, it wasn’t illegal for Australian citizens to access and use the services and Australian online poker was flourishing. Some online poker sites (888poker and PokerStars) even partnered with the Aussie Millions, offering online satellites into the iconic event.
Australian poker players made names for themselves in big online series and put the country on the poker map.
While it was a grey area for offshore companies offering online poker Down Under, part of the Australian gambling laws was that Australia-based companies were only allowed to serve gambling to non-Australians and not inside the country itself.
This caused a big scandal in 2016 around Luke Brabin and his “Poker Asia Pacific” site, that started out as a poker news site and eventually offered online satellites into live poker events and Cash Games in Australia. Despite this poker site being fairly small, the Australian authorities became aware and shut down operations.
Brabin promised the community to lobby for poker being excluded from the IGA and pointed a finger at the offshore operators that were freely offering their services in Australia. This might have contributed to what happened next.
The Australia online poker ban 2017
In 2017 the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill was passed by the Australian Senate. It finally fenced off the country from offshore online poker operators by tidying up some wording from the original IGA.
This still did not mean that Australians could not access offshore-operating poker sites and play completely legally, but the operators were now under the threat of hefty fines. Individuals could receive fines up to $1.35 million a day, while organizations face fines up to $6.75 million a day.
Many respectable poker sites opted to leave the Australian market to avoid these fines and other negative impacts. Sites that left included PokerStars, 888poker and PartyPoker. Other sites, like Ignition Poker, decided to enter the market.
There was a strong opposition to the Interactive Gambling Amendment, lead by the Australian Online Poker Alliance (AOPA) and Liberal Democratic Senator David Leyonhjelm, which unfortunately was unsuccessful.
Joseph Del Duca of the AOPA said that the support they got from the poker community was all he could have hoped for, “The Australian poker community should be very proud of how they have held themselves through the campaign. We have rallied together as a strong community. The inquiry has received so many submissions from people who want to save our game that they haven’t been able to keep up with the workload.“
Despite the amazing response of the Australian poker community to make the game legal or at least prevent it from being illegal, the Australian government did not change their minds and put the Amendment Bill in place, meaning that the 130,000 or so who played online Down Under had to choose between sometimes dodgy black market operators or giving up poker altogether.
However, Del Duca wants players and supporters to keep fighting, “… we urge Australian poker players to not give up hope. Our game is not dead and we will continue to campaign for safe, legal online poker when the Senate Inquiry is handed down. Our call for a safe, regulated online poker market in Australia is still the only option that provides freedom for players, revenue for the government and protection for those in need.“
The fight against the reform continues
The aim is ultimately to provide legal and safe poker for Australia and so the fight continues. Later in 2017, it was announced that the “in-principle battle” was won and one of the main politicians to support the ban of online poker, Minister Alan Tudge, was now willing to support efforts for regulation.
A regulation would mean to provide a legal offering of online poker from inside the country and this will be a long fight as it means a crucial part of the IGA needs to be changed, offering gambling from Australian operators to Australian players.
For the government this will make the most sense as operators will be subject to Australian law, enabling taxation and regulation for maximum player safety.
Online market recomposes with Ignition emerging as leader
Banning is rarely the best option as players will be forced to go underground. The big publicly traded poker companies have left the market, but smaller operators keep offering their services to Australian players.
Some poker sites even entered the market at the same time as others were leaving, like Ignition poker, which only entered Australia in July 2017 to fill a gaping hole where PokerStars, 888poker and partypoker have once been.
Bodog88, which shares the same network with Ignition, announced in summer 2019 that it will also offer online poker to the Australian market. Bodog88 is not a regulated site in Australia but does have a license from the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA), which holds online gaming sites accountable for protecting their players.
In addition to the above real-money options, Australian players do have access to several play-money apps where they can create private games. The same kind of applications that have been very successful in Asian markets, like PPPoker, PokerBros or Upoker, are also enjoying a lot of attention Down Under.
Australian Online Poker Alliance keeps lobbying
The fight to regulate online poker and supply a legal and safe medium for the game in Australia continues to present-day with the Australian Online Poker Alliance (AOPA) leading the reform.
Just a few months ago, another tentative effort to block online gambling operations was reported as the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) issued a blocking order to the country’s internet service providers (ISPs), specifying Ignition Casino and eight other online gambling sites to having accepted and serviced Australian citizens on their respective platforms.
“More than 79 complaints have been submitted to the ACMA about these services, which are available in Australia,” the ACMA declared in a statement. “ACMA investigations found these services to be operating in breach of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001.”
The regulator also noted that “Website blocking is one of a range of enforcement and disruption options the ACMA uses to protect Australians against illegal gambling services. More than 90 illegal companies have pulled out of the Australian market since 2017 when the ACMA started enforcing new illegal offshore gambling rules.”
Although the order was not heavily implemented and players still continue to play without any problems, the road to online poker for the country may be leading to a tougher battle and further success. The active efforts to limit Australians to take part in online poker may drive even the greatest professional players further underground and possibly resort to higher risk platforms. Mobile poker applications on the other hand, are likewise to be the most viable option at the moment given the unfortunate circumstances regarding real money gaming.
FOMO for Australian players during the Corona poker boom
With the Covid-19 situation affecting Australia and the rest of the world and seemingly unable to be pacified anytime soon, the demand for online poker has massively increased with traffic across all platforms booming despite the ban.
We will continue to update you on the state of poker in Australia.
Australia Poker Site FAQs
Is it legal to play online poker as an Australian?
Australian betting law is clear: There are no punishments for participating in web-based betting yourself. It’s exclusively the associations and establishments that provide the amusements that are liable for those activities.
This means that you can take part in web-based card games without stress or worry of arrest. This is fundamentally the same as the online poker situation in the US online poker circumstance, and no individual in the US has ever been arraigned, indicted, or sentenced for playing poker secretly as a resident.
The political will does not exist to do this in any Westernized nation, particularly not Australia: a nation with the most astounding betting rate on the planet.
Are non regulated Australian online poker sites safe?
Australian laws about online poker do not exactly create friendly conditions for players and administrators. Poker fans who play on Australian destinations are not guaranteed any assurance from the government.
However, that doesn’t mean that these destinations are working with no guidelines. These platforms are authorized outside of Australia, and they do provide a few assurances in terms of industry respectability and smooth payment handling.
In any case, players need to pay attention to the reputations of the spaces they frequent, and they should support the biggest and most reliable rooms.
What are the best Australian poker sites?
Players are searching for different experiences. While some are more interested in incredible software, others prefer easy-going recreation. Additionally, cash game players and tournament players have diverse preferences.
For these reasons, suggesting just a single site would be a mistake. Instead, in this article, we offer a list of the advantages and disadvantages of each space currently accessible to Australian players.