Australian Gambling Industry News — Weekly Round-up for August 11, 2017

Aussie Players Fight To Keep Online Poker (Update)

Australian Online Poker Alliance delegation pleads poker’s case before parliamentary enquiry

The Participation of Australians in Online Poker parliamentary inquiry this week saw a delegation representing the Australian Online Poker Alliance give evidence before the Senate panel tasked with the investigation.

Led by AOPA founder and leader Joseph Del Duca, the delegation appealed to the members of the inquiry not to ban online poker along with other forms of online gambling as envisaged by the recent proposed amendments to Australia’s Interactive Gambling Act (2001).

The delegation argued that there are major differences between poker and other casino games, noting that poker is a peer-to-peer game rather than players against the house, and that it is a game predominantly of skill.

Media reports indicate that senators on the panel showed real interest and an appetite to improve their knowledge of the issues during the hearing.

Del Duca told reporters:

“We appreciated that Senators present were interested in learning more about our game to ensure that they are well placed to make decisions in the interests of Australians who want to enjoy the hobby they love in a safe, legal environment.

“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 Senate inquiry is to deliver its report and recommendations to the Senate before September 21 this year.

Next Aussie Millions Poker Schedule Released

Diarise January 17 to February 3 next year

The organisers of Australia’s premier poker event, the Aussie Millions Poker Championship, are already gearing up for its next edition, which is planned for January 17 to February 5 next year at the Crown Casino in Melbourne.

The 2018 tournament will include 26 events with a wide range of buy-ins that start at A$1,150 and go up as high as A$100,000 in the Challenge high roller competition, along with other Challenge contests with buy-ins of A$50,000 and A$25,000.

The A$10,600 buy-in Main Event kicks off on January 28 and will be well supported by online satellites qualifiers.

The event attracted 725 entries this year, among them some of the best professional players on the planet. Despite this a satellite qualifier and amateur player emerged as the victor, earning himself A$1.6 million (see previous InfoPowa report).

Crown Melbourne tournament director Joel Williams says he is confident that the record numbers across almost all events in 2017 will be experienced again in 2018.

Tasmania Pokie Operator Deflects Criticism By Attacking Online Gambling

Some unlikely claims against online gambling made

A Tasmanian government inquiry into the local gaming industry, where club and pub based pokie machines rule supreme, will hear more evidence this week from various interested parties, including the Federal Hotels group, which holds an exclusive deed on poker machine licences that only expires in 2023.

The inquiry is tasked with delivering its report and recommendations by the end of September this year.

If the apparent misinformation delivered at its last hearing in February this year is anything to go by, the resumed hearing should produce some intriguing if unsubstantiated allegations.

Representatives of organisations supporting the operation of pokie machines outside of licensed land casinos appeared to be attempting to deflect criticism of the pokie presence in pubs and clubs by attacking online gambling, claiming that shutting down pokies will push Tasmanian punters to widely available online and mobile gambling offers.

Federal Hotels argued that online gaming is a bigger threat to the Tasmanian community than the placement of poker machines in pubs and clubs, with managing director Greg Farrell quoting from Treasury’s biennial study of the social and economic impacts of gambling to show that seven percent of Tasmanians have played online.

Contrary to international and Australian scientific studies, he alleged that these punters are four times more likely to be problem gamblers, or at-risk of moderate to high-problem gambling, than poker machine players.

He was contradicted by Anglicare Tasmania Social Action and Research Centre manager, Meg Webb, who said that problem online gamblers are a minuscule part of the state’s overall problem gambler contingent, and that there is no evidence to suggest reduced access to poker machines would push problem gamblers online.

“There is no link between these two activities in any research,” she said. “The motivations between these two forms of gambling are different. While participation in online gambling is growing, it only accounts for a small part of problem gambling activity in Tasmania. The clear and present danger is pokies.”

The Salvation Army’s spokesman Brad Wilson told the inquiry that in contrast to poker machine gambling, online gambling had not been identified as a concern by many of his organisation’s clients who sought support.

“It is our understanding that the demographic engaged in online gambling – suggested to be mostly younger, employed men – would be different to unemployed or socially isolated people seeking community and activity through centres such as a gaming venue,” he said.

“Therefore, notwithstanding that all gambling has potential negative financial and social implications, the typical outcomes and most-likely-affected persons would be quite different.”

Australian Senate Inquiry On Online Poker Continues (Update)

More questionable statistics?

The Australian Senate inquiry into online poker, and whether it should be included in the bans on internet casino style games proposed by the upcoming Interactive Gaming Amendment Act, heard from interested parties last week, not all of them as supportive of excluding online poker as the Australian Online Poker Association (see previous InfoPowa report).

The Salvation Army spokesman made some pretty bold anti-online poker claims, alleging that the game is one of the fastest growing forms of gambling, and that people who play it are at three to four times greater risk of problem gambling than those who played at venues.

The reports do not include any substantiation of this claim, which also warns that an increase in online poker will cause in a rise in the number of problem gamblers.

The Salvation Army submission also alleged that poker is not a harmless activity, but can become a compulsive dependency, and that online poker operators “deliberately” emphasise the element of skill necessary in poker to encourage an “illusion of control, despite there being little evidence to support the idea that skill is involved in long-term success.”

The Australian Institute of Family made even harsher claims against poker, alleging that offline and online poker players have seven times the rate of gambling-related health and financial problems than regular gamblers, again apparently without substantiation.

“Regular poker players appear to be exceptionally vulnerable to problem gambling and associated harms,” it said.

Crown Digital – A Shining Light In Crown Resorts Fy Report

VIP business drops 48.9 percent

Australia’s Crown Resorts delivered a disappointing full year 2017 fiscal report saying results reflected difficult trading conditions primarily impacted by an almost 50 percent decline in VIP program play revenue in Australia.

The company reported a 21.7 drop in net profit after tax, an 8.7 percent dip in operating revenues and a 12.7 percent drop in total normalized revenue.

Crown Digital’s wagering and online social gaming operations, however, gained traction delivering EBITDA of A$14.8 million compared to FY2016 where the company reported a loss of A$5.4 million.

Crown Digital wagering and online social gaming properties include CrownBet – a 62 percent-owned online wagering business, Betfair Australasia – a 100 percent-owned online betting exchange and DGN Games – a 70 percent-owned online social gaming business based in Austin, Texas.

Australian Senate Passes Igambling Amendment Bill (Update)

Moves to Governor-General for Royal Assent

The Australian Senate passed the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 Wednesday, after its passage through the lower house in June.

The bill amends the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (IGA) to implement the Australian Government’s response to recommendations in a 2015 Review on the impact of illegal offshore wagering.

Amendments in the bill include:

– introduce a civil penalty regime to be enforced by the Australian Communications and Media Authority which will include enforcement tools such as formal warnings, infringement notices, civil penalties and injunctions.

– prohibit ‘click to call’ in-play betting services by tightening the definition of a ‘telephone betting service’.

– effectively prohibits all forms of internet gambling including poker.

– amends the Australian Communications and Media Authority Act 2005 (the ACMA Act) to enable the ACMA to notify international regulators of information relating to prohibited or regulated interactive gambling services.

Following its passage, the bill moves to the desk of the Australian Governor-General, Peter Cosgrove, for Royal Assent.

The ban is expected to come into effect next month.

Passage of the amendment bill would appear to render moot the proceedings before a recent Senate committee ostensibly to consider the views of the public. The report from this hearing is not due for consideration until September 21, but the implementation date for the amended IGA is September 30. Perhaps it was a cosmetic exercise to begin with?

The full text of the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 can be read here:

http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22legislation%2Fems%2Fr5755_ems_ac9d20e9-6795-4e88-81b0-b926cfc5f211%22

and here:

http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22legislation%2Fbills%2Fr5755_first-reps%2F0001%22;rec=0