Au Ministers May Help With Online Poker Legalization

For more than three years, Australian poker players have not been able to play their game on any major poker site. The implementation of the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 in 2017 forced online poker operators out of the Australian market. The first to leave was 888poker, but PartyPoker and PokerStars both followed suit that same year.

The 2020 coronavirus pandemic showed just how much poker players miss their online games. So, it was natural that members of the Australian Online Poker Alliance wanted to know what could be done to convince lawmakers to take another look at online poker.

Last Time We Checked In…

Several months ago, a podcast featuring the main person championing legal online poker in Australia appeared on a podcast. Public relations expert Joseph Del Luca, also a longtime poker player and fan of the game, told the PMA Podcast hosts that the pandemic sidelined recent efforts.

Earlier in 2020, Del Luca scheduled a meeting with Communications Minister Paul Fletcher for mid-March. The two were going to devise a plan to introduce legislation to Parliament this year, so they were to start putting together the key points of the bill to exempt poker from current laws pertaining to online gambling.

Fletcher had to cancel the meeting because the Australian government was focused on the pandemic and was in the process of shutting down everything from travel to office buildings. The meeting went on an indefinite hold.

Even so, Del Luca delivered positive information – in a way.

He explained the problem with some lawmakers and the word poker, as it is so often associated with pokies or poker machines. However, many of them don’t realize that the game of poker is entirely separate. In fact, he said approximately 80% of the members of Parliament to whom he spoke about online poker believed he was referring to online pokies.

The good news about this is that educating lawmakers might be the key to finding their support for an exemption for online poker from current laws. When they understand that online poker is not a house-based slot game but a game of skill pitting players against each other, everything could change.

Poker Players Frustrated in Pandemic

For several months, poker players have been without live poker. Casinos with poker rooms and traveling tournament leagues at local clubs were off limits. Even when casinos began to open their doors in June and July, most of them did so without live poker games.

This left players with very limited options.

They took to the Two Plus Two online poker forums, specifically to a thread dedicated to Aussie online poker. The thread began in 2013 when the Australian Online Poker Alliance was a thriving organization with a website and action items for its members to try to influence members of Parliament.

The 2+2 thread is now nearly 180 pages in length.

The most recent posts began in July, when players became frustrated with a lack of communication by Del Luca. Many players had been asking for an update but hadn’t received a response.

Finally, on August 1, Del Luca did respond to a commenter in the thread. He apologized – as usual – for poor communication but just had a baby amidst the pandemic. Regardless, Del Luca and the poster named Oliver had a conversation, which Oliver posted in the thread.

First, Del Luca conveyed that he had previously – before Covid-19 – met with Families and Social Services Minister Anne Ruston. After the pandemic began, he communicated with her and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher. Both “were sympathetic to our position, particularly when it comes to the benefits a regulated market can offer to protect vulnerable Australians.”

Del Luca added, “I really can’t stress how positive the meeting was.” He noted that Ruston “totally gets where we are coming from.” The only problem is the timing, as Covid-19 has left so many people unemployed that her social services duties must be focused on those people.

Second, the three were going to revisit the issue of legal online poker in July. However, the second wave of coronavirus cases put that meeting on hold.

Next Steps Depend on Coronavirus Path

The goal, obviously, is for Del Luca to reschedule that meeting with Ruston and Fletcher.

When a commenter asked if players in Australia could be competing online by July 2021, Del Luca replied, “Too hard to say at the moment. If we can get this COVID stuff under control by the end of the year, I think that timeline still makes sense. But we are really at the mercy of the pandemic at the moment.”

Some of the players in the thread noted that they will continue writing to members of Parliament to express support for online poker. Others advocated doing it on social media. There was some support for pushing a news-centered television program to cover the online poker dilemma, but others expressed concern that the show could spin the story negatively.

They were also divided on the idea of Del Luca being the best representative. While some people expressed frustration with Del Luca’s lack of updates, others indicated that he is the best person with the best knowledge of poker and political connections.

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Rose Varrelli avatar
Rose Varrelli
Senior Casino & News Writer

Hi there! I’m Rose, and with nine years behind me in the iGaming industry, I craft engaging narratives at CasinoAus. My education in Communication across Europe has sharpened my skills in fintech, casino legislation, and digital marketing. Backed by a strong foundation in SEO, storytelling, and cross-cultural communication, I’m passionate about creating content that resonates globally and educates our audience.

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