888Poker which is the second largest online poker website in the world after PokerStars, recently announced that it has decided to exit the Australian market. The company sent out a short email to its online poker players in Australia and informed them of this decision.
Australian poker players will not be able to play on the 888poker website from January 16 but will still be able to access their bankrolls and withdraw their winnings. While 888Poker has not provided an exact reason for exiting the Australian online poker market, it is most likely due to the fact that Australian legislators are contemplating passing an amendment to the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001 which would require all online poker operators in the country to obtain a gaming license.
The Australian online poker market has been a grey area for a number of years as the authorities were not very strict on online poker operators. PokerStars and 888Poker were some of the major online poker operators to offer their services down under. PokerStars has also made its intentions clear to exit the Australian market should the amendment be passed. The new amendment will enforce stiff penalties on both online poker operators and poker players who access poker websites that are not legally authorized to operate in the country.
An online poker operator who does not have a license to offer services in Australia could face penalties up to A$6.75 million per day while individuals will have to pay up to A$1.35 million per day to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). There are also unconfirmed reports that a number of other small online poker operators are likely to follow the footsteps of 888poker.
888Poker sent an email to its Australian players saying “Following a business reevaluation, we’d like to inform you that 888poker’s services are not being offered to players residing in Australia and therefore your account will be closed as of 16/01/2017. You can still withdraw funds from your bankroll at any time using our web cashier. Please check your email for more information.”
While there is no clear confirmation as to when the amendment to the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001 will be passed, many online poker operators are preparing to exit the Australian market. There is an online poker group lobbying to get legislators to exclude online poker from the proposed amendment.