ATA and MyChoice fight for Online Poker players’ rights
Two weeks ago, ATA Executive Director, Tim Andrews and Policy Director, Satyajeet Marar appeared before the Senate committee on Environment and Communications to argue that the government should allow Australian consumers to play online poker.
Unlike most forms of gambling, Poker is a game of skill with multiple studies and court judgements finding not only skill rather than luck as crucial to a player’s success, but that the game sharpens players’ minds by honing key skills including critical thinking and even diplomacy. Online poker is especially appealing to consumers, allowing those in rural and regional communities as well as the disabled and other marginalised groups to participate in a game of skill.
With online poker buy-ins at as little as 1-2$ per game, the electronic format is also egalitarian – offering an enjoyable and intellectually stimulating experience without need for a trip to the casino that could set an Aussie player back by hundreds of dollars just to participate in the real-life version of the game.
An estimated 129,714 Australians were playing poker online and the industry was valued at $279 million during the early phase of this decade, and it is likely to have grown substantially since then. Due to the government prohibition, these players are forced to patronise foreign websites rather than Aussie businesses – with over $68 million going to American websites alone in 2012. If Canberra legalised online poker, it is likely that these funds would go towards Aussie businesses and jobs, while raising tax revenue for our government.
And recent law reforms to exclude foreign online poker providers aren’t going to change things. In fact, they are likely to make them far worse.
Only the highest profile online companies are likely to comply with the law, pushing Aussie players onto their less reliable and potentially dubious competitors.
“This is not just a theoretical proposition; it is already happening.” Argued Satyajeet Marar, ATA Director of Policy. “We note that two major publicly listed international poker companies have said they will probably leave the Australian market if the amendment passes. One company based in Chile, a smaller one, has already said it will actually step in and do the opposite—it will deliberately contravene our laws.”
“We know that in the US in 2015 when prohibitionist approaches were passed in some jurisdictions there was a company called Lock Poker, based on the Caribbean island of Curacao, which stepped in. A year later it disappeared with over $15 million of money still owed to players. Even those most ardently opposed to online poker acknowledge that this is likely to happen [here].”
“If people want to play online poker, they will get around the electronic constraints using VPNs and other possible means. We see this happening with copyright law.”
The ATA’s full submission and policy recommendations can be viewed here.