Australian poker players have been caught off guard by a shock move by the country’s government to declare apps for poker games illegal.
The decision has affected apps like PokerStars and 888 Poker which have been pulled along with all other poker games denied a licence.
Both Apple’s iTunes and Google Play have obliged with the ban, meaning no one who owns an iPhone or an Android smartphone should be able to download a poker app.
But the operative word is should because, in reality, such bans are hard to enforce considering the apps are freely available on the internet. To properly enforce the ban the government will likely need to enforce countermeasures such as requesting ISP’s to block access to these games online and via mobile devices.
However, Interactive Gambling Act 2001, which permits online sports betting and lotteries but not poker, doesn’t contain any effective measures to enforce its provisions.
Nevertheless, PokerStars confirmed the move on Twitter.
“Your local authorities are the best point of call for information. As far as we know it’s a ‘clamp down’ on mobile gaming,” said the UK-based gaming company.
The die had be cast for the apps several months ago when Australian Senator Dr Richard Di Natale asked specifically for the PokerStars app to be taken off Apple iTunes. “We don’t allow online poker in Australia for Australian people under the Interactive Gambling Act… [Apple has] an obligation to take down apps that are against Australian law.”
His words echo those made by Sheldon Adelson, chief executive of Las Vegas’s Sands casino resort, who said that online poker and gambling apps were a “a societal train wreck waiting to happen”.
In the US, online poker has had a similarly difficult time in attaining legal status, with some states only this year introducing legislation to permit the game. However, federal laws legalising poker are still a long way off.