POKERSTARS has officially withdrawn from the Australian market.
The world’s biggest online poker provider made the call to leave in the wake of the Australian Senate passing the IGA Amendment Bill 2016 on Wednesday.
The decision comes as no shock after Pokerstars mooted leaving when the discussion over the amendments began months ago.
While Pokerstars has vowed to return if Australia regulates online poker, it has began informing players via email that it will deal its last card down under in mid-September.
“The Australian parliament on August 9 passed the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill (2016) effectively banning all online gambling sites that are not locally licensed under Australian State or Territory law,” the email read.
“We’ve been aware of this day coming and have done our best to keep you informed, but we can confirm that we’ll be closing our real money poker tables to players in Australia, most likely around mid-September. We will contact you as soon as a firm date is confirmed.”
The banning of online poker in Australia is a kick in the guts for the massive community who have been fed hope in recent times after Senator David Leyonhjelm initiated an ongoing special Senate inquiry into whether it should be.
Senator Leyonhjelm has been a champion of online poker and blackjack since the initial concern about the spate of Australian money going to offshore licensed gambling sites and asked his colleagues to exclude the games from the bill. It was promptly rejected.
But it did lead to the Inquiry and plenty of support for poker, which is deemed “a game of skill” in many countries. The overwhelming consensus from independent authority voices, including Dr Sally Gainsbury, was that poker as a peer to peer game should be excluded from the updated legislation’s intention.
Pokerstars has assured existing Australian players they will be able to still access their accounts, and withdraw any outstanding balance for some time.
“Your funds are, and will continue to be, safe and available for withdrawal,” the email to players read.
“Remember to open any unopened Stars Rewards Chests you have, and you can continue to spend your StarsCoin in the Rewards Store.
“A $1 Cash Rebate has been added to facilitate converting your StarsCoin to cash. Any tournament tickets and tournament money will be converted to cash for withdrawal, effective from the market exit date. We have provided a FAQ page here.”
Pokerstars, whose parent company Amaya rebranded to The Stars Group this week, urged Australians to continue the fight for online poker.
“We’re proud to have seen the Australian poker community grow so strong over the last decade,” they said.
“We do respect the Australian Government’s decision in taking steps to protect consumers and hope that in time we’ll be able to serve real money poker to you again.
“In the meantime, we will continue to offer play money poker and we hope to continue to welcome many Australian players to our tables.”
The Australian Online Poker Alliance has been the voice of the players throughout the fight, and they have vowed to carry on the war, despite the unexpected early confirmation of the ban.
“It is even more clear after today that if we are serious about protecting freedom of choice for Australian citizens whilst ensuring help and protection is available for those that need it, then working towards a licensed and regulated online poker market is the right thing for our country,”
The ban is unlikely to stop the most dedicated players from still accessing online poker providers, with many sites that serve the illegal USA market, indicating they would, or have moved into Australia.
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