The win by the conservative Liberal-National Party Coalition in September’s Australian federal election brings with it an uncertain future for the country’s online gaming industry.
Had the outgoing Labor party retained power, the status quo was very likely to be retained—i.e., licences to operate online casinos would not be granted to Australian companies operating onshore, but there would no moves to curb the ability of Australians to play online at sites registered and administered overseas, and which is entirely legal.
However, the Coalition victory means that the situation, and the plight of Australian online players, could come to resemble that of their counterparts in the US, in a down-under version of Black Friday. The Prime Minister-elect, Tony Abbott, has previously declared that he would seek to introduce a ban on online casinos, having once described them as “a dark cave into which people can so easily retreat and there they are beyond help.”
The online gaming industry in Australia does not have a particularly powerful lobbying presence in Canberra, although this could be set to change if the incoming government makes moves to strengthen the enforcement of the Interactive Gaming Act, and in so doing limit the ability of Australian players to access online casino sites. Such a move was foreshadowed when Mr Abbott said, in the run-up to the election, “The Coalition will investigate methods of strengthening the enforcement of the IGA and ensuring Australians are protected from online gambling operators.”
The tighter enforcement of the IGA, and further prevention of the expansion of online gaming in Australia, would no doubt receive strong support from the powerful pubs and clubs lobby, led by Clubs Australia, which currently controls the majority of land-based pokie machines in Australia and is wary of its stranglehold on pokies being eroded if online gaming laws are further liberalised.
As yet, with the new government not yet sworn in, and a host of other high priority policies waiting to be enacted, it’s possible that there will be no movement in the foreseeable future. However, some are concerned that online gaming will be a soft target for an incoming government facing a number of battles to get its controversial legislation through, and which may therefore choose to focus on online gaming as a means of achieving a high-profile early win.
With this in mind, no-one is taking any bets that the Australian online gaming landscape will look the same in twelve months’ time as it does now.