Joe Hachem is trying to perform a very big favor for poker fans in Australia. Hachem gained quite a bit of fame in 2005 when he won the prestigious World Series of Poker. Today, he is parlaying that fame into being an advocate for online poker. Hachem wants to keep online poker legal in Australia. Untold numbers of poker players are wishing him well. In fact, they are really relying on his work.
Online poker’s days in Australia may be numbered due to an amendment of the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001. While the specific intent of the amendment is not to directly target online poker, the game could be on the proverbial chopping block was the amendment passes. Call this yet another example of the law of unintended consequences.
The amendment is designed to keep illegal gambling enterprises out of Australia. This is, in effect, a form of consumer protection. Illegal enterprises working outside the scope of regulations and the laws can prey on consumers. Addressing such a problem makes sense. Unfortunately, the amendment also makes it clear only operators with licenses in Australia can present a product to Australians.
Joe Hachem is doing his part to help with the cause. Whether he can be successful remains to be seen. Ultimately, the lobbying needs to be combined with major public support in order to be effective.
On the surface, this would not seem like too much of a big deal. Actually, it is because Australia online licenses sportsbooks. Poker is a table card game. Hence, online poker ventures cannot get a license in Australia. Big names that generate millions in revenue from poker endeavors are not exactly poised for greatness in the coming year. 888Poker wasted no time in exiting the market. PokerStars has not left yet, but is sure to do so. Online poker companies would have no choice in the matter. If they remain in operation after the amendment passes, they would be in violation of the law.
A very ominous and obvious point has to be mentioned here. No one in the government is taking any serious steps to try and keep these online poker companies in Australia. Likely, a certain segment of the government and the public want to see them go. Of course, if an exclusion for online poker is adapted, then the companies could return. A bit of lobbying may be required to achieve this outcome.