Australians working diligently to protect their right to play online poker made headway with a series of meetings in February, a spokesman for the Australian Online Poker Alliance said.
Joseph Del Duca helped form the Australian Online Poker Alliance (AOPA), which is using grassroots efforts to mobilize Aussie poker players and fight a proposed law that would effectively ban online poker in the nation of about 25 million people. Del Duca said the AOPA had "a successful week down in Canberra" in mid-February.
"We are putting this issue on the agenda," Del Duca said. "Prior to us setting up a little over a month ago, the writing was on the wall and online poker was doomed."
"We are putting this issue on the agenda."
Last December, a bill was introduced by Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge with the ostensible goal of protecting problem gamblers from unscrupulous offshore operators.
However, a practical effect of the bill is that it would block above-board, but located offshore, poker operators from offering their services in Australia. 888poker has already pulled out of the country and PokerStars announced they'd likely do the same.
This would then make Australia a prime target for black market poker operators, who could swoop in and give Australian poker players the undesirable choice between not playing online at all or giving their business to these shady companies.
That's a scenario Del Duca and the AOPA are fighting hard to avoid. To that end, they met with a number of legislators in February, with the proceedings giving Del Duca hope that online poker in Australia can still be saved.
He called the meetings "extremely positive" and said the current makeup of the Australian government could be major plus for the AOPA.
"I felt that he understood that peer-to-peer online poker services are not a major source of problem gambling."
"The two parties that form the government in Australia are center-right parties," he said. "So our position of allowing individual citizens the right to choose which hobbies they enjoy without big government measures standing in their way is synonymous with how the members and supporters of these parties think.
"Given the overwhelming evidence about how there is next to no correlation between online poker and problem gambling and the fact that multiple government and productivity commission reviews have called on the government to license and allow online poker in Australia, there is really no reason as to why a government that stands for freedom of choice would not listen to our calls and allow peer-to-peer online poker services for Australian citizens."
One legislator the AOPA got a meeting with could stand as a particularly tough roadblock for taxation and regulation of online poker. But even a meeting with Senator Nick Xenophon, known for a strong anti-gambling stance, bore fruit.
"I felt that he understood that peer-to-peer online poker services are not a major source of problem gambling," Del Duca said. "My feeling from our meeting is that he would much prefer the government to focus on predatory sports betting advertising and slot machines."
AOPA members have also been working tirelessly on social media since the group's inception last December to raise awareness to their cause. They've been contacting members of the government and spreading a "Keep Online Poker Legal" form.
Whether their ultimate goal of saving online poker comes to fruition remains to be seen, but some short-term goals have already been accomplished.
Del Duca called the amendment "a massive win."
Senator David Leyonhjelm has moved forward with an amendment that would exclude online poker from the proposed bill.
Del Duca called the amendment "a massive win." Online poker, which could have been stricken from Australia by now without the AOPA's efforts, has now been pushed on the agenda to late March, when it will be debated by lawmakers. The AOPA still calls on all supporters to continue the fight until then.
"The intention of this bill was never to ban online poker in Australia, and now that we have made our position clear and shown a path to protect poker and keep the intent of the Minister's bill intact, I am hopeful that Minister Tudge will do the right thing and save the game loved by hundreds of thousands of Australians," Del Duca said.
Photo courtesy of Andrew Jabs/freeimages.com
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