Next month’s federal election in Australia to select 44th Parliament membership has online poker players down under concerned that a Liberal Party victory could result in a Black Friday-like fiasco that may put the kibosh on Internet poker play.
Should the Labor Party under Prime Minister Kevin Rudd prevail, online poker players in Australia would be able to breathe a sigh of relief and the legality of Internet poker would likely remain in its current grey area. However, a win by Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party could result in an online gambling crackdown similar to what happened in the U.S. over two years ago when the government seized the domains of the major poker sites.
Abbott has promised a ban, calling online poker and gambling “a dark cave into which people can so easily retreat and there they are beyond help.” This Adelson-like thinking has a number of Aussies on edge, including 2005 WSOP Main Event winner Joe Hachem, who sent off a series of strongly-worded tweets that showed his obvious displeasure with the Liberal Party’s stance.
Hachem denounced Abbott’s views on online poker and gambling, tweeting, “I HATE ignorance in any form but esp. when coming from people in political power.”
As pointed out by pokerasiapacific.com, online poker in Australia is without the benefit of lobbying organizations, political activism, or any funding that can fight attempts to shut it down. A ban on online gambling would allow the Liberal Party to appease the anti-gambling crowd who cite the need to wipe out the quite large numbers of problem gamblers in Australia.
But online poker is certainly not the reason for the dirge of compulsive gambling behavior among Australians. The culprit is the country’s beloved “pokies,” said to be the nemesis of four of every five gambling addicts throughout the country. That is the ignorance Hachem is referring to when he asks, “How can the liberals glaze over the fact that slot/poker machines contribute to 80% of gambling probs” in Australia?
Surveys show that online poker is not the problem. But it has not stopped the Liberal Party from creating a “Policy to Help Problem Gamblers” that aims to “investigate methods of strengthening the enforcement of the IGA [Interactive Gaming Act] and ensuring Australians are protected from online gambling operators.”
So the liberals aim to protect Australians who play poker and gamble online even though that is not where protection is needed. Recent poll results show the Liberal Party to hold a good-sized lead. Aussie online poker players may want to expedite cashout requests from their favorite online poker sites in advance of the September election.