Australia has asked Apple to avoid violating its Interactive Gambling Act, which was passed in 2001. Besides prohibiting online gambling in Australia, this law prevented offshore companies from providing online gambling services to the residents of Australia. The law, however, was hardly used to prosecute anybody.
Australia singled out Apple as its App Store contained real money poker gaming apps from 888 Poker and PokerStars. If Australia had sent a notice to PokerStars, it would have been ignored as Australia has hardly enforced its anti-gambling law. But the Australian Department of Broadband, Communications, and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) has written to Apple about “its concern that the availability of the PokerStars App is contrary to the provisions of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001.”
According to the DBCDE, “Apple sought to resolve this issue with the App developer. After the developer failed to take action, Apple wrote to the Department to advise that it would remove the PokerStars App from its Australian App Store.”
Poker players have confirmed that Australian players can no longer download these apps as they are not available in Apple’s Aussie App Store. The DBCDE has refused to answer queries on why Australia decided to make such a move.
It is worth noting that the Australian Parliament is planning to amend the Act and thus prohibit Australians from purchasing virtual credits in-app, a practice that the Australian government feels is in violation of its anti-gambling laws. Australia has also ordered an inquiry on poker apps after receiving several reports of underage players blowing up real money on in-app purchases. Bringing the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 to Apple’s notice is most likely to be Australia’s attempts to stop online gambling.
In March 2013, a review of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 was published along with recommendations for improvement, but the government has not yet implemented any of those recommendations.
Apple in Australia has been facing a number of problems recently, along with Adobe and Microsoft. Recently, the company was bogged down by taxation issues and arrangements related to product pricing. Besides, it had to attend a Parliamentary committee hearing to defend the way it prices its products and fared slightly better than Adobe and Microsoft, which were in a similar predicament.
Australia is currently investigating the tax affairs of multinational companies, and Apple might have tried to put itself into the government’s good books by acting quickly against PokerStars.