Australian Online Poker Alliance Questions Government Effort to Stamp Out Grey Market Sites

The Australian government is crowing about efforts that have seen dozens of black market casino and poker sites stop operating in the country, but the Australian Online Poker Alliance says that in reality, nothing has changed when it comes to the online gambling landscape down under.

Australian Online Poker Alliance

The Australian Online Poker Alliance says that government regulators shouldn’t brag about forcing sites out of the country, as players have just moved to other grey market operators. (Image: PixelPrivacy.com)

According to a report by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), 33 illegal offshore betting websites have left the country in the past year, a figure the regulator says proves that its new powers to enforce heavier penalties has helped it to clean up the internet gaming market.

ACMA Expects Big Decline in Offshore Play

The ACMA report was released ahead of Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup, the biggest gambling event of the year in Australia.

“We’ve made it clear that Australia’s laws are unambiguous,” ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said in a press release. “If you provide prohibited or unlicensed gambling services to customers in Australia, you are breaching Australian law and we will take enforcement action.”

The ACMA gained its expanded powers last September, after the Interactive Gambling Act was amended. Since then, some 58 gaming websites have been targeted by ACMA compliance investigations, with 35 of them now being compliant with Australian laws.

According to the ACMA, a Global Betting and Gaming Consultants report suggests that the volume of gambling with illegal offshore sites will fall by more than 50 percent in 2018 when compared to the previous year.

But not everyone agrees with that sentiment. H2 Gambling Capital only expects about a seven percent decrease in play on illegal sites, and even the ACMA itself acknowledges that the exact amount of play on unauthorized sites is difficult to quantify.

AOPA: Removing Sites Doesn’t Improve Player Safety

The Australian Online Poker Alliance (AOPA) has seized on that fact to suggest that the ACMA actions may have had a lot less impact than the regulator would like to believe.

“Yes, some grey-market sites may have gone, but they have been replaced with different ones,” AOPA founder Joseph Del Duca said in response to the AMCA report. “If anything, there are more unregulated poker sites for players to choose from today than there were previously.”

The AOPA is in favor of licensing and regulating online poker sites in Australia – and, failing that, finding a way for the government to allow more reputable foreign sites to go back to operating in the country until legislation to regulate the industry can be passed.

In the meantime, Del Duca says that poker players have simply moved to sites that aren’t as trustworthy as those that have been moved out of the market.

“During our campaign we have spoken with thousands of Australian poker players,” Del Duca said. “To a person, nobody we have spoken to has stopped playing. They have merely shifted to different sites.”

In the end, the AOPA says that it wants the same thing as the ACMA: a safer environment for Australians who want to play poker and casino games online.

“If you are serious about protecting Australians, don’t send them to black market operators – regulate online poker,” Del Duca said.

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