Since Australia introduced the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill in 2016, more and more online casinos have been bailing ship on the Australian online market. Most recently, not to mention most notably, is the online poker powerhouse, 888 Poker. At the start of the year, the brand owned by the 888 Holdings company began reaching out to its Australian players to let them know they would no longer be able to make deposits, or play at the site after January 16, 2017.
The management at 888 Poker has recommended that all Australian players withdraw their funds from the site’s payment processor as a precaution against possible roadblocks to withdrawals that may occur in the future. The online poker room has also advised its Australian players to withhold from registering for any tournaments, and to unregister from any they may already be registered for.
Previously in 2016, the Malta- based online gambling brand owned by the Dumarca Gaming Ltd, Vera&John, pulled out of the Australian market. They did not clearly state that their exit was initiated by fear concerning the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill, but the timing was more or less a clear result of its proposal. Both 888 Poker and Vera&John stated that their choice to leave the Australian market was simply based on re-evaluation of their business strategies.
As 2017 rolls forward, more offshore casino operators are expected to follow suit and retreat from the unstable legal atmosphere for online gambling sites in Australia. PokerStars is rumored to be the next established company to remove itself from the Australian market, though there have not been any official rumblings as of yet. But most industry insiders attest to not being surprised if and when this does end up being the case, because PokerStars has begun making a concerted effort to avoid getting entangled with jurisdictions that are not clearly in support of the online gambling industry. This is motivated by their desire to polish their tarnished regulatory reputation and create a more legitimate brand appeal that many of the major land-based casinos enjoy.
PokerStars suffered a blow after being harshly reprimanded following the implementation of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in the United States. Undergoing that same level of public relation de-valuing is the last thing that PokerStars would want at this time. Much of the last decade they have been steadily rebuilding and growing their legitimacy in the eyes of the public, and risking that progress on another snafu is not an option they are interested in.
Gambling site like PokerStars, 888poker, and Vera&John are potentially biding their time for what will most likely be a legislative development that will eventually allow offshore operators to have a seat at the table in the future, but with clear restrictions and stipulations in place. So in a way, there is a chance that sites are going to leave the market in order to be able to walk back into the party then wearing the ascribed “dress attire”. This gives players hope that they will not have to put their play on hold indefinitely.
There still is an important vote up for the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill, which was proposed by the Human Services Minister, Alan Tudge. However, conventional wisdom is suggesting that it will likely get the support that it needs in order to enact the measures which would then highly restrict offshore online casinos and their operations in regards to Australia.