Australia Debates Legalisation of Online Poker Games

Australia is the latest country to join the debate about whether or not gambling laws need to be relaxed, following the release of a departmental report yesterday. The report, which recommends the liberalization of the industry and the introduction of that harm minimization standards, is thought to be the first steps towards legalizing many forms of internet gambling, beginning with online poker games.

Proposed changes include the legalization of online poker tournaments and live in-play sports betting, which is currently available via phone or in person. Micro-bets will continue to be illegal. The liberalization of the industry would be contingent on the introduction of harm minimization standards, which include self-exclusion, pre-commitment, dynamic warnings and easily accessible spending data.

The report has been slammed by Independent senator Nick Xenophon, who said it was a ‘thinly disguised sell-out to expose more Australians to online gambling’. Anti-gambling campaigner Tim Costello also spoke out against liberalization, saying ‘the more accessibility, the greater number of problem gamblers and social pain, particularly in young men’.

Despite the backlash, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy pointed out that Australian punters already send $1billion overseas via illegal sites, and regulating the industry would offer protection. Costello, however, refers to this as a valid deterrent – ‘If you gamble on shonk sites overseas and lose your money you never try again – it’s a natural protection.’

Poker blog sites will no doubt be delighted with the news, although Senator Conroy is quick to stress that the report is an interim report only and no decisions have been made.