Australia’s Online Gambling Crackdown Attracts the Black Market Experts

Ignition Casino launches in Australia and its surrounding territories as the regulated industry readies for departure.

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Ignition Casino, the leading US-facing offshore online gaming operator, has launched its online poker room and casino in Australia, ahead of pending regulation…
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Ignition Casino, the leading US-facing offshore online gaming operator, has launched its online poker room and casino in Australia, ahead of pending regulation that will likely force out the world’s regulated online poker industry.

Ignition, formerly Bovada Poker, has traditionally served the United States and five US overseas territories—Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa and the collective Minor Outlying Islands—exclusively.

It shares liquidity on the online poker network best known as Bodog. The network includes the Bodog88 skin that services China and Bodog.EU, which confusingly does not operate in Europe but rather Canada and now certain Latin American countries.

While there has been no official communication from Ignition or the network, and the site does not publish a list of accepted territories, an analysis of its signup page shows that the number of accepted jurisdictions has recently expanded from six to eleven—with Australia and its four inhabited island territories, including Christmas Island and Norfolk Island, added to the shortlist.

Players were also reportedly contacted this week informing them of the launch.

Regulatory Change

The global online gaming industry is poised to exit the Australian market as it awaits the adoption into law of a new amendment that seeks to clarify an existing ban on offshore online gambling.

The change includes increased powers to enforce the law. This includes the ability to levy civil penalties for offending operators, powers to disrupt travel of directors of gambling firms and—most critically—a commitment to inform regulators worldwide of operators who break local laws.

As PRO reported back in November 2016, the new law effectively changes the gambling market from gray to black. Regulated European online poker giants like Amaya and GVC are expected to depart the market following the adoption of the new law; 888 Holdings has already made its exit.

Attraction

But the black market is Bodog’s specialty and, as we have seen repeatedly, heavy-handed regulation may force out the regulated, publicly listed operators but will attract the less regulated, sometimes less scrupulous operators.

Online gambling prohibition in the United States was enforced in poker’s “Black Friday” in April 2011, yet multiple offshore operators continue to flourish, with the likes of Ignition and WPN thriving. And players often suffer at the hand of unlicensed operators, with fly-by-night operations like Full Flush Poker disappearing with player deposits.

Players are fighting to have online poker excluded from the pending amendment in Australia, with a fresh effort lead by Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm and the Australian Online Poker Alliance recently succeeding in establishing an inquiry into online poker and whether the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 is a “reasonable and proportionate” response to its risks.

While the likelihood of having poker excluded is remote, it may well push back the adoption of the gambling amendment. The bill was not considered during the House’s sitting in June; the next scheduled sitting is not until August. With the review pending until September, it may be sidelined until after this date.

This article originally appeared on Poker Industry PRO and has been republished here as a courtesy to our readers. Please visit Poker Industry PRO for more information on the industry intelligence services that are available, or email sales@pokerindustrypro.com to get a free trial.

July 27, 2017
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