Has Senator David Leyonhjelm Saved Australian Online Poker?

For some time now Liberal Democrat Australian Senator David Leyonhjelm has fought for the right of Aussie citizens to be able to continue to legally play online poker in their own country. Despite seemingly losing the battle this past August with the passing of the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016, it would appear that Leyonhjelm may have pulled off a masterstroke in poker's favour.

Leyonhjelm has fought long and hard over the past year or so to shine a light on the case for online poker, maintaining that its inclusion in the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill was unecessary, and that “It’s stupid, if you want to play poker, there are lots of opportunities in Australia, at casinos and tournaments. It's not as if there isn't a great deal of poker playing already, but they're just stopping it online. The whole world is online now.”

In fact, Senator Leyonhjelm was so incensed by the inclusion of online poker in the bill that he urged online players to "Screw the government, get yourself a VPN and an offshore account and carry on playing as you were." in an infamous facebook rant earlier this year.

Leyonhjelm has also worked closely with the Australian Online Poker Alliance (AOPA) to get the case for the legitimacy of online poker heard among the power brokers of Aussie law. Although he failed to convince the Senate to adopt his amendment to the IGAB which would have taken online poker out of the bill, he did manage to pass a motion to hold a public Senate inquiry into the future of online poker, which took place last month.

According to AOPA founder Joseph Del Duca, the public hearding was a success, deeming it, "a momentous moment in Australian poker history". Nevertheless, just days later the IGAB passed through the Senate, followed by PokerStars announcing that they were to leave the Australian market within weeks.

Now, however, it would appear that David Leyonhjelm's efforts may have not been in vain after all as last week Senator Leyonhjelm's office announced that they had "received a letter from Communications Minister Mitch Fifield advising that he has instructed his Department to undertake some preliminary work examining the feasibility of Australian onshore providers obtaining licences to operate online poker"


Above: Senator Mitch Fifield has agreed to look into the feasibility of legalised online poker in Australia in return for David Leyonhjelm's support in helping the government's media reforms get through the Senate

This change of course from Fifield is likely to have been prompted by Leyonhjelm's agreement to help push along the governments proposed media reforms, which include the banning of advertisements for gambling during live sports broadcasts before 8.30pm. The case for online poker was given another shot in the arm when it wasd revealed that Human Services Minister Alan Tudge, who oversaw the process that drafted the amended legislation has also now offered his support.

Speaking to Pokernews.com last week Leyonhjelm said "We have won the in-principle battle.It's now a matter of working out the details."

At this time it is unclear as to whether the new discussions will look to include offshore operators and for Aussie players to play internationally, or whether they will centre purely on a ring-fenced Aussie market. Either way, at least its a step in the right direction for online poker in Australia, which only weeks ago seemed doomed.


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