CANBERRA -- Australia's federal parliament just closed loopholes to ban online poker under changes to gambling laws passed by the Senate on Tuesday which also outlaw in-play sports betting.
The Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 came about after the Review of Illegal Offshore Wagering in 2015, which recommended tightening up federal laws around gambling online. The 2001 Interactive Gambling Act had already sought to outlaw online gambling -- including poker, blackjack and roulette -- but this amendment bill aimed to close "loopholes" which allowed online gambling to continue, according to Liberal Democrats senator David Leyonhjelm.
"It's stupid," he told The Huffington Post Australia.
"If you want to play poker, there are lots of opportunities in Australia, at casinos and tournaments. It's not as if there isn't a great deal of poker playing already, but they're just stopping it online. The whole world is online now."
Leyonhjelm has been a vocal opponent of the amendment, claiming the changes are unnecessary and ineffective.
"The original 2001 law was meant to stop online gambling of many kinds, but it didn't, there was a loophole. There is quite an active online poker community in Australia. I don't think it will succeed for those really determined. If you have a [virtual private network] or offshore account, you will still play. It's a stupid situation to be in," he said.
The law also closes loopholes around live sports betting, or betting on in-play events once a sporting fixture has begun. Such betting has been cited as a possible factor in match or spot-fixing, and online in-play betting has been outlawed for some time. However, a loophole allowed in-play bets to be made over the phone.
"This is because a conversation with the operator, during which the customer has to provide identification and betting information, slows the betting process and thereby reduces the scope for problem gambling, one of the objectives of the IGA," outlined the amendment bill's explanatory memorandum.
However, major bookmakers and betting agencies have used the loophole to offer 'click to call' phone features on their websites and apps, which vastly speeds up the betting process. The latest amendment closes that loophole, outlawing 'click to call' services. Leyonhjelm claimed that, far from addressing possible match-fixing, the changes could actually help it prosper.
"In the UK, there are licensed providers of in-play betting and the government taxes them. They raised hundreds of millions in revenue last year. They are also able to audit the betting, to link sports events being rigged and correlate that back to activity, to follow the money trail," he said.
"The ban on in-play betting is meant to stop corruption of sport. If that happens now, we may never know."
Leyonhjelm also said the ban would push people to less trustworthy and reputable overseas betting agencies.
"It will promote the black market. There are ways to circumvent these prohibition approaches. People will gamble using foreign providers by various means. They will be in the hands of sometimes shady providers, and if they get ripped off, they will have no recourse," he said.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST AUSTRALIA