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Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill passes Senate

Tue, Mar 21, 4:46pm by Senior Writer

The Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill has passed through the Senate, paving the way for a major change in regulation of the online gambling industry in Australia.

The two major changes will see a specific change in the law to prohibit the provision of interactive gambling services to Australians by unlicensed persons and the official prohibition of online in-play betting on sport.

The change technically puts to an end the provision of online gambling services from overseas operators, with the Australian Communications and Media Authority now empowered to impose civil penalties on operators such as warnings, infringement notices, fines or injunctions.

This would include online casinos, online poker and any other form of betting which is not specifically licensed in Australia.

The legal onus remains on the operators and there remains no consequence for gamblers who may use these services.

However, the specific legal provisions contained is set to change the landscape with several major providers, including Pokerstars, saying they will step back from the Australian market.

ACMA is empowered to effectively be the chief regulator, and among its powers includes the ability to place any directors or owners of offending companies on a Movement Alert List, which could prevent their entry into Australia.

ACMA will also maintain a register of eligible interactive gambling services, which consumers will be encouraged to use to make informed gambling choices.

The official end of ‘Click To Call’ in-play betting services comes around six months after Australian licensed bookmakers, such as Sportsbet and William Hill, ceased to offer the service.  Those services operated under a loophole in the previous version of the IGA, but that has now been closed.

There were some late amendments to the Bill surrounding the provision of credit betting by licensed services.

Amendments proposed by One Nation, which looked to ban wagering companies offering betting on overseas lottery results, such as Lottoland, were not included.

Senator David Leyonhjelm wanted to include an amendment which permitted online poker, but that was withdrawn as he condemned the Bill as ‘Nanny State’ politics.

He posted on his Facebook page that there is still a chance that online poker and blackjack could earn an exemption, and has called for submissions from players

“The government did not agree to my amendment to exempt poker and blackjack from the Interactive Gambling bill. However, there appears to be enough doubt about the legislation to indicate a review of the ban on online poker may be possible,” he wrote.

Probably the best way of pursuing this is a committee inquiry. However, this would involve a lot of work and it would be important for online poker players to make submissions and generally raise their voices in support.

“You have plenty of other options for playing poker, so how important is this issue for you?”

We will have more news on the implications of the passage of the IGAB Bill in coming days.

The full text of the Bill is available here. 

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