Australia bans online poker despite massive vocal opposition

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Online poker is coming to an end, with just a couple weeks left until the ban begins early next month.  Despite recent comments suggesting the issue was still undecided, the Australian Senate voted on and passed a ban on online poker.  The current Minister of Health, who was the senator that created the legislation last year cited expert testimony on the harmful effects of online gambling and poker in particular.   Other experts had testified before Senate committees the opposite, that outlawing a widespread activity would have severe negative effects on the psychological health of people.

But in the end, the very recent testimony seemed to not have mattered at all as the bill was pushed through rapidly without any opportunity for further witnesses or discussions.  Among other things, the bill seems short-sighted in that it does not present any services for treating the addicted gamblers that it claims it is trying to help.  The bill also falls far short of dealing with illegal gambling operations that are sure to pop up once the legal online gambling ban goes into effect.

The argument against online poker seems flawed from the start as the game was singled out as being particularly addicting,  which is not supported by any major research.  Other forms of gambling, including slot machines, have always been viewed as the most addictive.

The writing was on the wall since January when the new Minister of Health took his cabinet position.  Many online casino operators pulled out of Australia earlier this year, anticipating the passage of the legislation.   The bill includes a fine of almost $5 million dollars per day for operators who continue to operate online poker to Australian players and since few Casino operators want to deal with different game restrictions in different countries, most just pull out completely.