888Poker isn’t risking the million dollar fines or potential arrests its directors may face, as it has withdrawn from the Australian market.
Effective January 16, all Australian players will not be able to join the large array of Texas Hold’em, Omaha and other poker tables to play against other poker enthusiasts from around the world. Instead they will only be allowed to withdraw any cash still in their account as the second biggest poker site in the globe, after PokerStars, removes their services from the Aussie market.
Australian players were informed of this via a short email which said “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. Please check your email for more information.”
While a clear explanation wasn’t given, reports are suggesting it’s due to the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 which requires all online poker operators to get a gaming license if they wish to offer their real money games to Australian players.
The consequences are quite dire if an operator does not comply including fines of up to $6.75 million per day for companies, and up to $1.35 million per day for individuals by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).
The directors of companies which continue to offer their services to Aussies without a license will also be put on the Movement Alert List, preventing them from ever coming to Australia unless they want to be arrested.
Despite 888Poker making the move first, PokerStars indicated it would be exiting the Australian market following the amendments – though it isn’t clear when the bill will be officially passed. Since Australian’s make up 2.5% of PokerStars income, the company will take a huge hit when they do decide to withdraw.
Australian online poker players haven’t taken well to the amendments and aren’t going to sit on their hands with a poker group created under the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance (ATA) aiming to keep it legal.
The Australian Online Poker Alliance is using an automated form service on the ATA’s website which allows people to contact their local MPs and express their opinion on the matter.
We have commented on the amendments before and still share the same sentiments in it’s quite hypocritical allowing one service, such as lotteries and sports betting, but banning another with no strong evidence it is more harmful than those excluded. Regardless, we are expecting the bill to pass and many more poker companies, perhaps PokerStars and PokerParty to follow suit.
Where can Australian poker players go now?
For now, all major online poker sites have exited or will depart the Australian market in the face of our new draconian gambling laws. There will be many unregulated, unsafe offshore poker sites attempting to take advantage of the fallout, but we highly recommend Aussies avoid signing up at said sites. In the meantime, it’s only right to join the AOPA’s fight to keep online poker legal in Aus, because we deserve to have the best possible poker services available.
For AU online poker players who also play card games and slots, at least there is the option of several real money casino sites offering video poker, 3D poker and other variants of Caribbean Stud and Texas Hold’em. We recommend checking out House of Jack‘s RNG-run online poker catalogue to hold you over in the interim.