An Australian politician recently put technology company Apple to task over their offering of online poker apps to Australian users of Apple phones.
One particular app, developed by PokerStars, was singled out earlier this month by Australian Senator Richard Di Natale, after it was found that the app allowed players to deposit and play with real money, just like on a computer. The app was launched in May last year and is available at several Apple App Stores for use on the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, as well as on Android.
While the Senator has previously stated his view of allowing online poker tournaments to be accessed and played by Australians, he is also stated his opposion to allowing cash games the same access due to his belief that they are a more harmful form of gambling.
The provision of online poker services in Australia is officially banned under the country’s Interactive Provisions Act. The Act states that a person is found guilty of providing an interactive gambling service (which includes online poker) to customers in australia if they “intentionally provide an interactive gambling service” and if “the service has an Australian‑customer link.”
Prohibition of providing online poker services under this Act was echoed by Senator Di Natale in his call for Apple to stop offering the app. The Senator said that due to Australia’s ban on online gambling, Apple “have got an obligation to take down apps that are against Australian law and they should do it.”
The maximum penalty for those breaking the Act is $1.1 million per day the service remains open after being cited. Despite the perceived toughness of the Interactive Provisions Act, not one person has been prosecuted under it since the bill since it came into effect back in 2001.
Senator Di Natale’s call for Apple to shut down the app and for the Australian Government to help ensure such services do not operate in the country may be taken into consideration given the current make-up of the Australian Government. Senator Di Natale is a member of the Greens, a leftist party which lent its support to the Labor Party in forming a minority Government in 2010.
Despite this, Australians go to the polls in September in an election in which the current Government is expected to lose in a landslide. In an attempt to gain more public support, the Labor Government have been, and will continue to focus on, issues of more importance to Australians, such as broadband and the economy. It knows that while problem gambling certainly affects some in the country, it is not a major issue and the game of poker is not responsible for many of those affected by it.
One does not have to play on the major online poker services for that long to see at least a few Australians playing the game, some playing it seriously for ‘big money’, others playing more for a social pastime. It would be detrimental to the already fledgling Australian Government if they were to act on Senator Di Natale’s advice and attempt to shut those services down so close to the election.
Online poker will not be shut down to Australians anytime soon, if ever, as it is not a major issue in the country. However, it is worth noting that there are Australian politicians who are passionate about addressing gambling services, which means calls to shut down online poker services will also not stop anytime soon.