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Online Poker Regulations in Australia and New Zealand

4,140 Views Comments on 14/8/17

It’s not illegal to play online poker in Australia, the focus of the laws is on the operators who offer the games, rather on the punters who play them.

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Online poker is popular the world over, and this is true of Australia and New Zealand as much as anywhere else. Unfortunately, the laws around online gambling have meant that online poker is outlawed in many countries. 

As a player you don’t want to run the risk of incurring penalties for engaging in illegal online activities, so it’s important to be aware of gambling regulations for the country you’re playing in. The laws are different across different countries, and even in different states or territories within a single country, and this can make it extremely confusing.

Recent changes to gambling legislation in Australia have meant that the issue is even more fraught than it was before. Due to new laws brought in during 2016, a number of online poker operators have left the Australian market, blocking Aussie players from accessing their site.

So are you breaking the law if you play online poker from Australia or New Zealand?

The important factor to note here is that under current legislation, it’s not illegal to play online poker in Australia, the focus of the laws is on the operators who offer the games, rather on the punters who play them.

What is the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill?

The Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill of 2016 came into being in Australia late in 2016 and it closed loopholes that allowed live sports betting, in play betting and online poker to be played online. Punters who want to bet on a game that is already started can still do so over the phone but the loopholes that allowed sports betting companies to offer in play betting through ‘click to call’ services have now been closed.

How does it affect online poker in Australia?

Online poker looks set to be banned along with other forms of online gambling, if legislation that’s before the senate in Australia gets passed. This is looking highly likely at the time of writing. Under the new laws, unlicensed operators of online poker sites will be banned, but considering there is no framework in place at the moment to actually apply for and get a licence to offer online gambling services, this effectively means the death of online poker in Australia. 

The ban is due to take effect on September 9th 2017 and under the new laws, any companies that offer online poker services to Australian players will face fines of up to $6.75 million per day. 

Fortunately, online poker in New Zealand is not likely to suffer the same fate. Kiwi players can relax, as it is currently perfectly legal to play poker online in New Zealand. Online gambling is licensed and controlled by the Department of Internal Affairs. It’s divided into different classes depending on the level of prize money on offer.

It’s not legal, however for operators within New Zealand to offer online poker services to residents of New Zealand. All online gambling services need to be provided by the TAB or NZ Racing board. The law does not explicitly state that overseas operators are banned from providing their services to NZ players. 

Many NZ players use overseas poker sites to play online poker and while it’s always a good idea to check the legislation and make sure there are no changes, it’s very clear that the operators, and not the players are the ones who may be penalized.

What’s the problem with banning online poker?

Australia and New Zealand have a thriving poker community, both online and offline and it’s unlikely that banning online poker will stop people playing. What is likely to happen instead is that punters will turn to overseas sites using a VPN or choosing a site that doesn’t block Australian players. Unfortunately doing this means that Australian players are at risk of playing at unregulated sites and this can have a number of unfortunate consequences

With no regulation or licencing for online poker sites, the government also has no way of controlling or overseeing the poker sites to make sure they are operating fairly and honestly. This means players are at greater risk of being defrauded or ripped off and will have no legal recourse for compensation when they do. 

The laws around online poker and gambling are constantly changing, and while recent developments are disappointing, Australian online poker enthusiasts can only hope that there will be future changes in favour of more lenient laws or a regulatory body put in place so that poker sites can offer their services legally to Aussie players.



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