Senator: “Get Yourself a VPN and an Offshore Account”

AustraliaSenator David Leyonhjelm has offered unconventional advice to players hoping for an online poker carve-out in Australia´s Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill.

Campaigners against proposals to ban online poker in Australia received an unconventional message of support yesterday from Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm. The Senator – who is sympathetic with the campaigner´s cause – posted a video on his Facebook page saying he was talking with Australia´s Minister for Human Services, Alan Tudge, in the hope he would reconsider the legislation.

Senator Leyonhjelm said if the bill looked like it was going to go ahead, he would introduce an amendment to exempt online poker and online Blackjack from the legislation. He suggested that poker players should write to Minister Tudge, reminding him that they were voters, and concluded his video by saying if none of this works, screw the Government. Get yourself a VPN and an offshore account.

About the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill

The Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill was introduced last November with the objective of preventing “in-play betting” during a sporting event. Although telephone in-play betting is already illegal in Australia, online operators have circumnavigated the law by launching smartphone betting apps, allowing gamblers to bet “illegally” from their mobile phones. Because the operators are not involved in the “conversation”, the Government has been unable to take any action to prevent it.

However, an interpretation of the law would prohibit post-flop betting in games of online poker and splits/double-ups in games of online Blackjack. Opponents to the Bill claim there is a big distinction between in-play betting and post-flop betting, but their claims have fallen on deaf ears and the Bill has already been passed by Australia´s House of Representatives. It is due to have its third reading in the Senate next month, but appears to have bipartisan support throughout the chamber.

Campaigners Step Up Action

Campaigners against the proposals to ban online poker in Australia formed an action group back in November – the Australian Online Poker Alliance – and have since started a Poker Daily Action Plan to encourage players to write to their legislative representatives and share their point of view. Group coordinator – Joseph Del Duca – has also held meetings with several key politicians and reported positive feedback against the group´s ambitions.

The movement to save online poker in Australia was unable to prevent 888Poker from withdrawing from the market, and both PokerStars and Party Poker have indicated they will follow suit should the legislation pass next month – Amaya announcing last year that the loss of the Australian market would negatively affect company revenues by 2.5%. Companies such as Bet365 and William Hill would remain in the Australian market, but only for the provision of “before-the-event” sports betting.

Prospects Do Not Look Good

Despite the group´s campaigning efforts and the support of several leading politicians, the prospects for online poker in Australia do not look good. During the first reading of the bill in the Senate, Senators from both sides of the chamber expressed their ignorance about online gambling – blaming it for underage gambling, addictive gambling, and even revenge porn (!). Hopefully the message will get across before the bill gets its next hearing – the alternative being that Australian poker players will have to heed the advice of Senator David Leyonhjelm to get yourself a VPN and an offshore account.