A few weeks ago, the Australian lawmakers welcomed foreign gambling operators to hell with the newest amendments made in the local gambling legislation. In March, the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 was officially passed by the Australian Senate, aiming at eliminating online poker from the gambling activities offered in the country.
The Minister for Human Services in Australia – Alan Tudge – first introduced the bill back in November 2016. At this time, the main idea of the bill was to actually support the acting sports betting legislation in Australia. Currently, the country’s legislative body allows land-based and online sports betting, despite the fact there are still some restrictions on in-play sports betting operations.
In addition, the country’s legislature was focused on tightening the existing loophole which practically allowed off-shore operators to introduce various mobile applications in order to offer players various in-game sports bets. Unfortunately for off-shore operators, other forms of iGaming activities were also eliminated with the new bill’s amendments, as all forms of online gambling which are not officially legal on the territory of Australia are banned under the provisions of the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016.
Unfortunately, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. While the local Government seeking to eliminate the loopholes used by some operators to offer their iGaming products and services to Australian customers, what it actually did was to open the gate to hell, as the respected licensed operators are exiting the country, leaving the market to suspicious brands.
Will Australia Be the Next US in Terms of Online Gambling?
The new Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 closes the existing loopholes to put an end to unauthorised and illegal operations and protect “vulnerable Australians”, according to Alan Tudge, the Human Services Minister of the country. Mr. Tudge revealed that at present times, the number of people who are more likely to become problem gamblers is increasing due to the fact that illegal gambling services are very easy to access on the Internet. According to him, the local Government is committed to taking more serious action against foreign operators who run illegal operations through the new bill.
Also, as mentioned above, the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 is to ban all forms of iGaming which are not explicitly legal in the country. Under the Australian gambling legislation, sports betting is the only gambling activity which is explicitly proclaimed as legal in the country, so online poker is by default considered as illegal.
The new rules that have been implemented in the country’s legislation inevitably led to the exodus of some of the largest international gaming brands from the Australian market. No matter of the seriousness of the problem with the gambling operators’ exit, another serious question has been provoked by the introduction of the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016. So, would Australia follow the US on the way to grey economy and a variety of off-shore brands operating in the country? Will the country lose hundreds of thousands of dollars after creating a favourable environment for unregulated and unmonitored brands operating out of law?
The truth is that such an environment is very likely to be created by the newest amendments in the Australian gambling laws. Not that the previously existing loopholes were a good thing, but still, they allowed the licensed and regulated brands to run their online gambling operations in the country. With the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 being implemented, it is exactly the licensed brands that are to exit the country, leaving the market to the ones that operate without license and monitoring. This, on the other hand, would equal to lack of adequate customer protection, lack of proper customer support and more unfavourable conditions for the local players.
With the local Government being so worried about the local players, Australian competent authorities should also think about the consequences that would follow the implementation of such strict measures to the country’s market. After all, the exodus of the good old respected brands would inevitably have a negative effect on the local customers, with the fairness and transparency of any potential online gambling operations put at stake.
The Large Gaming Brands’ Exodus Following the Bill
As mentioned above, the implementation of the latest amendments in Australia’s gambling legislation has led to the exit of a number of licensed and reputable brands from the Australian market. Many local players expressed their disappointment with the companies’ decision to withdraw their operations from the country, but the deed is done and there is not turning back.
The bingo operator Vera&John became the first global brand to officially exit Australia in December 2016, right after the bill was introduced. The brand’s decision took immediate effect, with all deposits and transactions being cancelled within a week after the official announcement was made.
The poker brand of 888 Holdings – 888poker – was the next one to leave the Australian poker market. The brand officially announced its exodus at the mid January 2017, saying its services would no longer be available on the territory of the country.
The local customers were given a pretty short notice of the operator’s decision, after sending them e-mails to inform them for its decision on January 13th.
The Gibraltar-based online gambling operator 32Red also announced its intentions to withdraw its services from Australia at the beginning of April. The company revealed that the latest amendments in the Australia gambling legislation prompted its decision to leave the country’s market.