Is Pub Poker Illegal in Australia?

by Noah Taylor Last Updated

Pub poker games may be a popular draw for guests but it seems these popular games may be under threat of extinction in South Australia.

Believe it or not, according to the SkyCity Casino and the Australian Hotels Association (AHA), these games could potentially be illegal. The AHA has warned pub owners they might be irresponsibly flouting gambling laws with these “cash buy in” games of poker.

Several operators of these games run these so-called “free” poker tournaments at various pubs across the state. Operators are usually sponsored by a local club or pub to run these games. The games are technically free but for a player to acquire the necessary chips to play, they must buy food or beverages at the pub. This is now being regarded as a way to coerce customers into spending at the club.

Illegal or not, these cash-entry games have really made it big in the recent past with several flocking to local pubs to try their hands at the poker games. The popularity of the games has further increased due to the endorsements by several celebrities who have glamorised the cash entry poker poker games and created an international phenomenon.

The Advertiser reports that the South Australia State Government has received a request from the SkyCity Casino regarding the matter. The casino has confirmed that it has requested a review of the poker games being played at pubs and argues that pubs are probably flouting gambling laws. The Office of the Liquor and Gambling Commissioner will be conducting the review.

The impending review of these pub games should not come as a surprise as it coincides with the new and increased police interest in the games as well. Detectives are scheduled to investigate a hotel in the northern suburbs after several people complained of illegal gaming practices on the premises.

The AHA has notified over 500 hotels of the possible breach of laws. General Manager Ian Horne said by promoting these cash entry games, hotels could be going against the Lottery and Gaming Act and the matter will be investigated.

However, it seems most game operators do not believe the game could be illegal. They insist that any money collected as “entry fees for these games was not pocketed by the pub owners. They were simply redistributed to the winning players. Operators believed this practice was reason enough for the games to qualify as perfectly legal gaming options. Other organisers also commented that the games were a good way for people to socialise.

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