An Urgent Message to the Australian Poker Industry

Wow. Where do I begin?

It’s been a crazy couple of days, to say the least.

Since publishing Episode 2 of the PMA Podcast, myself, Ben Blaschke and Tom Bower been inundated with feedback about what was discussed.

For the most part, it’s been extremely encouraging.

Many people have already openly declared their support and congratulated us for coming out in the open to start a conversation that needed to be had (and one that is far from over).

I’d be lying, however, if I said there wasn’t at least one person who has approached us in confidence to voice their opposition to our views on the subject.

They’ve outlined their opinion and the reasons why they do what they do. Try as they might to convince us otherwise, the fact remains: the ends don’t justify the means.

There’s no doubt that times are tough for everybody. The drastic changes we’ve had to make in how we live our lives because of COVID-19 have deeply impacted us all.

Like so many of you, I am longing for the day that we’re able to get back to the tables, but it’s not just the shutdown of the live poker scene that’s keeping me up at night.

Many poker players in Australia are now willingly engaged in unregulated web and app-based sites in order to get their fix.

In turn, this has attributed to an estimated 67% rise in online gambling expenditure, according to a recent article published in the ๐˜š๐˜บ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ๐˜บ ๐˜”๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ๐˜ฏ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ข๐˜ญ๐˜ฅ.

As Tom made clear during our broadcast: players are not guaranteed consumer protections on these sites, especially when it comes to things such as game integrity, responsible gambling and self-exclusion practices, as well as safe and secure financial transactions.

What’s even more frightening is that many operators of these clubs and sites are openly defying the law by advertising, promoting and even going as far as live streaming their games through social media.

Despite what they may tell you, the people involved in these poker sites – almost all of which are based off-shore – are in clear violation of the ๐˜๐˜ฏ๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ข๐˜ค๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ท๐˜ฆ ๐˜Ž๐˜ข๐˜ฎ๐˜ฃ๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ˆ๐˜ค๐˜ต 2001.

If prosecuted, the financial consequences are massive. Fines range from tens of thousands (for individuals) to millions of dollars (for companies) ๐—ฝ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ ๐—ฑ๐—ฎ๐˜† for each offence committed.

Not only that, but the potential fallout from all of this reaching mainstream media and subsequently damaging our industry’s collective reputation is – to put it bluntly – catastrophic.

What is abundantly clear based on the patterns of behaviour that I’m seeing now, is that many people simply haven’t learned from, or choose to ignore, the harsh lessons of Black Friday.

And if this all goes south – and it’s not a matter of if, but when – all the hard work that weโ€™ve done to legitimise poker in the eyes of the mainstream will be brought undone in a heartbeat.

Iโ€™m not saying this to try and scare you, folks. Iโ€™m saying this because itโ€™s the truth.
Itโ€™s a sentiment that many of my esteemed poker media colleagues share, especially those based in the United States, where this is all playing out on a much larger scale and with many big A-list celebrities involved.

Yes, history has shown us that prohibition doesnโ€™t work, but the problem is that history is repeating itself – and we simply cannot let that happen.

Instead, we have to build and maintain a united front (with proper financial backing) that can help lobby state and federal governments to establish, regulate and tax a legal and regulated online poker market in Australia.

At the same time, we need to have the collective courage and fortitude to hold our industry peers accountable for their wrongdoing.

No more apathy. No more turning a blind eye. No more excuses.

We can – and must – do better as a group to truly clean up our game and secure our industry’s future.

In closing, I leave you with a link to the Australian Communications & Media Authority (ACMA) website.

Here, you will be able to see a list of all the licensed and regulated online gambling sites that are able to operate in this country.

You can also submit a complaint to ACMA against sites that you believe are in breach of the legislation.

And in order to make an informed decision before you choose to submit a complaint, just remember:

If it’s not on the list, it’s illegal.

It’s that simple.

And it’s not worth the risk.

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