Here’s Why PokerStars’ Retreat From Australia Might Only Be Temporary

Posted on September 20, 2017 - Last Updated on September 22, 2020

[toc]PokerStars may have officially retreated from the Australian online poker market on Sept. 10. Nonetheless, one senator is boldly claiming that “victory for online poker is on the cards”.

Australia’s federal government approved the Interactive Amendment Bill 2016 in August 2017. It changed the national law to remove online poker and restrict online gambling to sports betting only.

In the months leading to the bill being passed, the battle to save online poker was led by Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm. When it became clear his plight was to be unsuccessful, Leyonhjelm told the country’s poker players:

“Screw the government. Get yourself a VPN [virtual private network] and an offshore account and carry on as you were.”

PokerStars and the only other remaining online poker domain, LeoVegas, waited until September to switch off their servers. However, 888 and partypoker withdrew from Australia earlier this year in anticipation.

In an email to Australian customers, PokerStars stated:

“The time has sadly come to halt all real money poker play at our tables.”

What’s on the cards now?

Just a few days later and it seems the grim future of online poker in a Australia might not be so grim after all.

On Monday, Leyonhjelm posted a statement online claiming “Victory for online poker on the cards.” He said that after further lobbying with the Australian government, it had advised that is in favour of looking at “reforms that would exempt online poker players from illegal offshore wagering laws.”

According to Sky News, Leyonhjelm ensured that the government’s media reform proposals won’t be met with much opposition. He said:

“I believe we have won the ‘in-principle’ battle. The question now will be how to make it happen in practice.”

If all goes to Leyonhjelm’s plan, Australian onshore providers would be able to obtain licenses to operate online poker. There is therefore potential for online poker’s major players to be able to return. That is, if they were to set up a home base in in Australia. There would also be room for local online operators.

How long could this take?

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield sent Leyonhjelm a letter, according to the senator. In it he states that he’d instructed his department to “undertake some preliminary work examining the feasibility of Australian onshore providers obtaining licenses to operate online poker.”

This will lead to a study of online poker by the senate committee. A report will then be delivered in mid-October, according to media reports.

Leyonhjelm also stated that he believes Human Services Minister Alan Tudge is open to the changes, but that there is still a long way to go in gaining full party approval.

Joseph Del Duca, one of the founders of the Australian Online Poker Alliance (AOPA), said:

“The poker community should be very proud of getting things to this point. We are pleased that the government is listening to these players and taking this matter seriously.”

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Jack Stanton

Jack Stanton is a freelance journalist and marketing copywriter, specialising in the world of poker and online gaming. Jack's work has appeared on VICE, The Guardian, The Drum, PokerStars Blog, PocketFives, BLUFF Europe and more. As a live poker reporter, Jack has covered events in locations as far afield as the Bahamas, Chile, South Korea, Brazil, and all across Europe.

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