Despite the fact the bill is yet to be passed, many online poker rooms are already looking to depart from Australian shores. 888 wasted no time in ditching the Australian market, withdrawing their online poker services on January 16. There’s been a great deal of speculation that PokerStars, the world’s largest online poker room, is looking to follow suit in the next few months.
That’s not to say the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 has unanimous support in Parliament. Senator Leyonhjelm, a Liberal Democrat representing New South Wales and one of the main overseers of the bill, has pointed out that the bill will only encourage Australian poker players to use illicit poker sites where they may be at risk of losing their money. He raises a valid point: the US government’s attempt to ban online poker in 2011 was successful only insofar as it forced out sites that were operating legitimately at the time. In their absence, however, a number of offshore poker sites emerged to satisfy demand for online poker.
Ignition, one such operator, is now accepting Australian players. Operating outside of government regulation has become something of a business strategy for Ignition, and so far it’s been tremendously successful. The online casino has built up a sizeable playerbase in the US because of its fast and secure withdrawals, well-designed software and acceptance of bitcoin.
Australian anti-gambling legislators have so far failed to consider bitcoin gambling and the extent to which it will undermine their attempts to outlaw online gambling. Unless legislation is proposed that specifically addresses cryptocurrencies, bitcoin gambling may remain legal in Australia even if online gambling is outlawed. Regardless, bitcoin gambling operators have typically operated without respect for borders or laws. If anything, the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 will encourage more bitcoin gambling operators to enter the Australian market.
Bitcoin gambling is becoming increasingly popular alternative to regular online gambling. Indeed, gambling has become one of the foremost applications of the virtual currency. Not only do bitcoin operators offer gambling services where they otherwise may not be available, use of bitcoin for gambling offers a number advantages over regular currency. First and foremost, withdrawal speeds are significantly faster when using bitcoin. Ignition, for example, promises regular payouts within 5–10 days, or 3 days for bitcoin users. Secondly, using bitcoin allows players to remain totally anonymous. Lastly, because processing bitcoin is cheaper and easier than processing regular currency, bitcoin operators can offer better rates to their customers.
While the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 may be successful in removing established names from the field, the US situation has proven that enacting effective anti-gambling legislation is a tricky business. With the rising popularity of bitcoin gambling and offshore operators such as Ignition eager to satisfy demand, it seems safe to say online gambling won’t be leaving Australia anytime soon.