Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

Partypoker Withdraws from Australia

 Partypoker Withdraws from Australia

The fallout from the recent online gaming regulatory changes in Australia continues, as partypoker has announced that it will be withdrawing from the country’s internet poker market, effective August 31st.

In a brief statement, which can be found on the website of party’s parent company, GVC Holdings, partypoker said:

It has been announced that Australian gambling law is due to change imminently with the introduction of the Interactive Gambling Amendment Act. Sadly, because of this change, gambling firms licenced and operating outside of Australia will be forced to prevent customers resident in Australia from playing on their gambling websites. Therefore, from 31st August 2017 partypoker players will no longer be able to play from Australia. Players’ deposited funds are safe and available for withdrawal.

partypoker Managing Director Tom Waters said, “We regret that this day has come as Australia is a strong poker market. We will continue to work with the Australian player alliance to lobby the government to provide a safe regulated environment for residents to play online poker in the future.”

This decision stems from the approval of changes to the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 a couple weeks ago by the Australian Senate. The bill states that all online gambling operators must apply for and be granted a license to offer their services to people in the country. This is certainly not unreasonable – we poker fans here in the United States want government licensure and regulation – and normally partypoker would look to apply for such a license. The problem in this case is that the only form of online gambling for which licenses are available is sports betting.

Thus, in order to operate in Australia, partypoker would have to work in violation of the country’s gambling laws, as it will literally be impossible for the company to receive an online poker license. None will exist. So, rather than be a rogue operator – and there will be rogue operators – partypoker has decided to withdraw from the market completely.

The new gambling law has not taken effect just yet; they will start up 28 days after the bill is signed by Sir Peter Cosgrove, Australia’s Governor-General. This act, called “Royal Assent,” took place on August 16th, so it looks like September 13th is the day of reckoning for online poker in Australia.

Partypoker is not the first online gambling site to pull out of Australia. Bingo site Vera&John led the way in December. 888poker became the first online poker site to do so, withdrawing in January. PokerStars announced that it would likely do so a while back, finally confirming as such approximately a week ago. We would expect most other online poker rooms to follow suit, provided they do not want to be on the wrong side of the law.

As partypoker mentioned, player funds are safe – they just won’t be useable as of August 31st. We would suggest players cash out their poker funds as soon as possible, not because they won’t be there come September, but just in case the process gets more complicated once partypoker shuts down in Australia.

Poker News Daily

PokerStars Announces Withdrawal from Australia

 PokerStars Announces Withdrawal from Australia

PokerStars has sent an e-mail to its Australian players that it will withdraw from the Australia market in mid-September following the passage of a new online gambling bill in the country. The Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill (2016) passed parliament on August 9th and effectively bars all internet gaming sites that are not licensed in Australia. PokerStars does not have such a license.

Now, one’s initial reaction might be that PokerStars will just apply for a license, eventually be granted one, and Aussies can start playing again. And that would be a reasonable thought, but unfortunately, that won’t happen. The bill permits online gambling, but only of the sports betting variety. As sports betting operators are the only ones, therefore, who would be able to apply for a license, online poker operators like PokerStars have no way of complying with the law. Well, no way except to get out of Dodge.

PokerStars had already announced that there was a high likelihood it would leave Australia, so this comes as no surprise, even though it is disappointing. The exact withdrawal date depends on when the law goes into effect, but it is expected in roughly the middle part of next month.

Online bingo site Vera&John was the first online gambling site to exit Australia, doing so in December 2016. 888poker was the first poker site to do it, leaving the country in January of this year.

Below is the entire statement issued to Australian players by PokerStars:

The Australian parliament on August 9 passed the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill (2016) effectively banning all online gambling sites that are not locally licensed under Australian State or Territory law. We’ve been aware of this day coming and have done our best to keep you informed, but we can confirm that we’ll be closing our real money poker tables to players in Australia, most likely around mid-September. We will contact you as soon as a firm date is confirmed.

Your funds are, and will continue to be, safe and available for withdrawal. Remember to open any unopened Stars Rewards Chests you have, and you can continue to spend your StarsCoin in the Rewards Store. A $ 1 Cash Rebate has been added to facilitate converting your StarsCoin to cash. Any tournament tickets and tournament money will be converted to cash for withdrawal, effective from the market exit date. We have provided a FAQ page here.

We’re proud to have seen the Australian poker community grow so strong over the last decade. We do respect the Australian Government’s decision in taking steps to protect consumers and hope that in time we’ll be able to serve real money poker to you again. In the meantime, we will continue to offer play money poker and we hope to continue to welcome many Australian players to our tables.

We’d also like to thank the Australian Online Poker Alliance for their campaigning on behalf of the game and suggest that you consider lending them your voice if you’d like to see a regulated return of online poker to Australia.

Poker News Daily

Online Gambling Amendment Passes in Australia, Poker Banned

 Online Gambling Amendment Passes in Australia, Poker Banned

Australian online poker players, welcome to the hell we have had to deal with in the United States. On Tuesday, the Australian Senate passed the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016, effectively eliminating online poker from the country’s entertainment landscape.

The bill was introduced in November by Australia’s Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge mainly as a way to shore up Australia’s sports betting laws. Sports betting – online and otherwise – has been permitted in the country, but there were severe restrictions on “in-play” sports betting, which is what it sounds like: bets placed on sports contests while those contests are being played. In-play sports betting was allowed, but only via telephone, not online.

With the advent of smartphones, though, offshore operators introduced apps to allow players to place in-game sports bets. They were able to get away with this because they had found a loophole that owed its existence to the law’s vagaries. Smartphones are phones, so in-play bets made with the devices are being placed with phones. Clearly, this is not the intent of the law, but operators still got away with it.

So, that loophole was tightened up, but along with it, other forms of internet gambling were killed. The Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 bans all forms of online gambling that are not explicitly legal in Australia. Only sports betting is explicitly legal, so poker is now illegal by default.

It is widely believed that it is now just a matter of time before most online poker operators exit the Australian market, a significant one in the industry. Vera&John – a bingo site – was the first operator to ditch Australia in anticipation of the bill back in December. 888poker followed suit in January.

Back in November, Amaya CFO Daniel Sebag said in an earnings call that PokerStars would probably get out of Dodge, too.

“In Australia, we currently offer poker and are reviewing the applicability of proposed legislation to player versus player games of skill,” he said. “At this time, it would appear likely that if the legislation passes, we would block players from Australia. As we do not offer casino sportsbook in Australia, it currently contributes to about 2.5% of our revenues and we estimate it could reduce our EBITDA margin by up to a 150 basis points.”

It is a difficult issue for operators. In some countries, online poker is not explicitly legal, but it isn’t technically illegal, either, so they feel comfortable (or at least not too uncomfortable) offering poker. In Australia, there will be no way to acquire a license, since there is no poker licensing regime, and those who offer poker without a license could face stiff fines.

Even if an operator was willing to risk the fines, it will still probably leave. Take PokerStars, for example. PokerStars has been toeing the legal and perception lines very carefully in countries where it wants to operate. Part of this effort to make sure it is a responsible player in other markets. If it continues to offer poker in Australia, it may not be looked at as favorably in countries like the United States where it is still trying to make inroads via licensing and regulation.

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888poker Withdraws from Australia

 888poker Withdraws from Australia

On Monday, 888poker closed all Australian accounts for its popular online poker room. Players were given little warning, only receiving an e-mail about the disappointing event on January 13th.

The message in the e-mail was as follows:

Following a business reevaluation, 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’ll continue to be able to withdraw all funds from your bankroll using our web cashier.

If you’ve already registered to any of our tournaments starting from 16/01/2017 onwards, please unregister as you won’t be able to participate.

Regards,
888poker team

888 did not explain what this “business reevaluation” actually entailed, but dollars to doughnuts it has to do with the proposed Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016, which would update the country’s decade-and-a-half-old online gaming laws. Advanced by Australia’s Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge in November, its primary aim is to curb “in-play” online sports betting. This type of wager – placing bets while a game is in action – is allowed in Australia, but only via telephone call. Thing is, many offshore operators (and some in Australia) have made smartphone apps that allow players to place in-play bets. The theory is essentially that since the bet is being made with a phone, it is still legal.

That’s all well and good, but what does that have to do with 888poker? It doesn’t, really, except for the fact that the bill would also require operators to obtain Australian license to offer their games in the country. Fines for violators could reach as high as AUS $ 6.75 million (USD $ 5.05 million).

Poker has been in one of those legal grey areas in which it is not explicitly legal, but not explicitly illegal, either. Thus, operators have been providing their services without really any fear of punishment.

888poker is not the first online gaming operator to make the decision to withdraw from the Australian market. In December, Vera&John made the same move, siting a similarly mysterious “business decision.”

In November, Amaya even mentioned this as a possibility. In the company’s third quarter earnings call, CFO Daniel Sebag said, “In Australia, we currently offer poker and are reviewing the applicability of proposed legislation to player versus player games of skill. At this time, it would appear likely that if the legislation passes, we would block players from Australia. As we do not offer casino sportsbook in Australia, it currently contributes to about 2.5% of our revenues and we estimate it could reduce our EBITDA margin by up to a 150 basis points.”

As for 888poker, as of the beginning of this week, it is the second largest online poker room in the world, coming in with a seven-day average of 2,300 cash game players in PokerScout’s rankings. PokerStars.pt (Portugal) is third with 1,700 players, so 888poker will likely remain in the second spot, but it will be interesting to see how much the gap is closed with PokerStars.pt.

Poker News Daily

Online Casino Operator Withdraws from Australia as Legislation Black Cloud Threatens

 Online Casino Operator Withdraws from Australia as Legislation Black Cloud Threatens

Nervous about potential online gambling-ending legislation, internet gaming operators are making plans to bolt the Australian market. In the past week, the first domino fell, Vera&John, a site that sounds more like a place to order chocolate-dipped fruit than an online casino, told its Australian customers that their accounts will have to be closed.

In an e-mail, the Malta-based Vera&John wrote:

We’re always sorry to say goodbye, but the time has come. Due to a business decision, Vera&John will no longer be able to offer its services in your jurisdiction. Your account will officially be closed in one week.

As of today, you will no longer be able to make deposits to your Vera&John account. Any funds which have not already been removed from your account can still be transferred to your preferred payment provider within the next week.

While the site did not specify the exact reason for its decision, it almost certainly has to do with the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016, brought to the fore by Australia’s Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge in November. The goal of the bill is to combat “in-play” online sports betting. Bets of this type are only allowed to be made in a telephone call in Australia, but gaming operators have been violating the law for a number of years.

Many offshore operators without Australian licenses have offering in-play sports betting, as have many Australian operators. By creating smartphone apps that provide the vehicle for such bets, operators have essentially found a loophole to the “telephone call” rule. A smartphone is still a phone, right?

Thus Tudge’s bill would amend current gaming law to tighten up the ban on in-game sports betting over the internet. As for online poker, right now it is not explicitly legal in Australia. It isn’t explicitly illegal, either, so many operators freely offer their services in the country. But the bill would also prohibit games that are not outright legal. Therefore, an online poker room or, say, an online casino like Vera&John, would be running contrary to the law.

Vera&John is the first operator to withdraw from the Australian market because of the possibility of the law, but other companies have indicated that they might do the same. During his company’s third quarter earnings call in November, Amaya CFO Daniel Sebag said that PokerStars would likely retreat if the law is put in place.

From the transcript of the call on Seeking Alpha, Sebag said, “In Australia, we currently offer poker and are reviewing the applicability of proposed legislation to player versus player games of skill. At this time, it would appear likely that if the legislation passes, we would block players from Australia. As we do not offer casino sportsbook in Australia, it currently contributes to about 2.5% of our revenues and we estimate it could reduce our EBITDA margin by up to a 150 basis points.”

PokerStars has been particularly sensitive about its image with U.S. regulators, so it would not be surprising at all if it withdrew from Australia in order to avoid doing anything that might look untoward as it continues to try to make progress in current and future regulated U.S. markets

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