The Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 was approved last November, and will amend three pieces of legislation. One is the Interactive Gambling Act 2001, which will be amended to ‘clarify the services to which the Act applies by recognising prohibited interactive gambling services and regulated interactive gambling services’, as well as prohibit the provision of regulated gambling services to Australians without a licence.
Consequential amendments will be made to the Interactive Gambling Regulations 2001, and the Australian Communications and Media Authority Act 2005 will be amended to permit the disclosure of ‘certain information to foreign regulators and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’.
The emails which were sent to 888poker players on Friday 13 January read as follows:
‘Following a business re-evaluation, we’d like to inform you that 888poker’s services are not being offered to players residing in Australia and therefore your account will be closed as of 16/01/2017.
‘You can still withdraw funds from your bankroll at any time using our web cashier.
‘If you’ve already registered to any of our tournaments starting from 16/01/2017 onwards, please unregister as you won’t be able to participate.’
Whilst some might argue that 888poker has withdrawn from the market prematurely – after all, the legal amendments have not yet come into force – it is understandable that the company wants to avoid being caught out. If 888poker was even perceived to be operating illegally in Australia then that could have a negative impact on its licensing terms with other countries, so erring on the side of caution would appear to be the wisest course of action.
As far as Australian poker players are concerned, we sympathise with the short notice they were given regarding the closure of their accounts, and we hope that the Australian government will take a serious look at issuing licences to approved poker operators at some point in the very near future.