This is a guest contribution from Joseph Del Duca, founder of the Australian Online Poker Alliance (AOPA). The AOPA is a community run organisation and advocate for safe and sensible online poker legislation ensuring that Australian poker players are heard.
If the poker community doesn’t act now, online poker will no longer be permitted in Australia. Legislation currently sits in parliament which effectively ends online poker. Reputable, regulated sites have announced that they will withdraw from the market if this law comes into effect.
This puts Australian poker players at a great risk. The vacuum that will be left after these large sites leave will present two choices to those that want to continue playing poker. Firstly, play exclusively in live venues or secondly, use sites that choose to deliberately operate outside the law by continuing to offer games to Australian players. Both of these scenarios are unfavourable outcomes for Australian players.
Live poker is fantastic, it is something that we all enjoy and it doesn’t matter how much you play online the thrill of playing a live game is always exciting and something that every poker player enjoys. However, should it be the only option?
Access to live games is limited in Australia by both cost and location. Costs are much higher in live games. At Crown Casino in Melbourne, the cheapest tournament available costs $60. At The Star in Sydney the cheapest tournament is $220. Compare this to online where more than 75% of tournaments played are for a buy in of $10 or less. There are significant costs in running a live tournament such as hiring staff and other overheads so it is simply not possible for casinos to offer tournaments at this price point. What does this mean to the player that only wants to play a $5 tournament? They are being told that they must either quit a hobby that they enjoy or play for larger sums of money than they are comfortable. This does not seem to be in the best interest of Australian citizens.
The other issue is location. In the time since founding the Australian Online Poker Alliance I have spoken with thousands of Aussie poker players. An overwhelming number of these players are from regional and rural areas, often great distances from their local casino or pub poker game. They are limited in their choices outside of online poker. As a society we are moving so many services online to improve access, why are we scaling this back in poker and telling players that because of where they live they do not have the same ability to enjoy those hobbies as other Australians do? In addition to this there are our elderly and our disabled for whom many, going to a public venue to play may be impossible. Poker is a game of strategy and mental stimulation enjoyed by players of all ages. I recently received an email from an elderly gentleman by the name of Mick. This is what it said:
“I would like to tell you why I play online poker. I am 80yrs old and need to keep my brain active, I have played poker for many years and find it very stimulating and challenging, it also adds to my social life, I am a disabled pensioner so don’t get out a lot, i don’t spend a lot of money playing, you can play as low as 25 cents or even less depending on what game you play, i like to chat to other players from all around the world, it can be very social. i used to play in the hotels, but can’t get out any more. Without online poker my life would be miserable to say the least, i think if you ban poker online most people will go to the poker machines in the hotels and this would be 100 times worse than online, please look at all the repercussions that will occur if you ban our hobby.”
The other option available for players like Mick is to choose to play with sites that deliberately operate outside the law. We have seen countless examples in America post Black Friday of this ending in tragedy. Sites have disappeared and taken millions of dollars in players funds with them, as they were operating outside of the law to begin with the government was powerless to help the victims.
If sites are comfortable operating against the will of a sovereign nation what hope is there that they will act with an appropriate level of integrity and social responsibility when it comes to protecting players funds and running honest games? What the current government position does is effectively replace the regulated, publicly listed companies that are currently serving Australia to smaller sites choosing to deliberately act outside of Australian law. Clearly this is not in the country’s best interest.
What can I do to help?
Our campaign is working. The government is holding a Senate Inquiry into the future of online poker in Australia. We have until July 21 to make our voices heard. We need you to do one of two things.
1) Head to the Australian Online Poker Alliance website and use our talking points to write a submission that personally explains your position and why you are so passionate about regulated online poker remaining in Australia
2) Not sure what to write? Head to the Inquiry Page and leave the below statement with your name and contact details.
“I want regulated online poker in Australia. All banning online poker does is ensure that reputable operators will no longer operate in Australia and replaces them with those that purposefully act outside of Australian law.
As an Australian citizen and a taxpayer I should have the right to enjoy the hobby I love without the government interfering. Regulating online poker will allow me to continue playing poker whilst ensuring that appropriate consumer protections are in place and that an additional government revenue stream is secured.”
We can make a difference. But we need to act now! Don’t wait for somebody else to act. It is up to YOU to save our game.
Joseph Del Duca is the founder of the Australian Online Poker Alliance (AOPA).