New laws passed to ban online gambling in Australia

Fans of online gambling will need to reconsider their options after new legislation were passed in Australia last week.

On March 20, the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 was passed by the House of Representatives, with changes to the existing laws set by the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (IGA) about to make things a whole lot more risky for Aussie punters.

Until recently, loopholes in Australia’s online gambling laws have meant that Aussies were free to gamble at online casinos, provided the casino is licensed and located outside of our borders. The IGA Amendment Bill has been implemented to close those loopholes once and for all, with the new laws now clearly stating that online gambling operators are prohibited from offering services to Australian players unless they hold a license from an Australian state or territory.

Interestingly, Australian states and territories are not legally authorised to issue online casino licenses, so the Amendment Bill essentially makes it illegal for Aussies to play at any online casino, whether it is legally licensed by a reputable offshore gambling jurisdiction or not.

This is where things have the potential to get dangerous, as it is highly unlikely the new laws will do much to turn online casino enthusiasts away from the Web. The Amendment Bill puts a focus on the casino operators and gaming providers themselves, and does not introduce any penalties for Australian residents found to be gambling at unlicensed casino sites. Given the widespread use of VPN (virtual private network) services which allow players to get around region-restrictions, it seems safe to assume that many Australians will ignore the IGA amendments and continue to play games like the pokies, blackjack, roulette and poker for real money online.

The risk comes from the fact that the most highly certified and regulated casino vendors are the ones who will pull out of the Australian market, whereas the cowboy operators who already run outside of the law will ignore the IGA amendments completely and continue to welcome Aussie players.

With the leading online casinos banning Australian players, Aussies who enjoy a casual punt on their favourite casino game are now more likely to turn to an unregulated, unlicensed offshore casino to place a bet. This leaves them vulnerable to dodgy practices, unsafe payment methods, unsecured sites and exposed to gaming software that is not audited for fairness by a trusted industry regulator like eCOGRA.

The Australian government has cited gambling addiction as one of the major reasons for banning online casinos – hypocrisy at its finest as there continues to be 24 hour pokie machines and table games found in a majority of Australia’s capital cities. It seems the government would have been better off taking a leaf from the UK’s book and regulating the online gambling market instead, providing a boost to Australia’s economy while providing a safe and controlled space for Aussies to participate in one of the country’s most popular pastimes. Instead, players insistent on gambling online will now turn to unregulated offshore sites where they are at more risk than ever.

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