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PokerStars Confirms Exit From Australian Market

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Worldwide leader in online poker PokerStars sent an email to its Australian users on Aug. 11, 2017, confirming that it intended to close its doors to the country shortly. There had been strong indications that the site would do so, and it finally made the decision official following the passage of the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill of 2016 on Aug. 9. Many competing sites, like 888poker, had already left the market. PartyPoker abandoned Australia shortly thereafter, and PokerStars followed up on its plan by denying games to Australians effective Sept. 11, 2017.

What Did the Email Say?

Virtually identical emails were sent out to multiple customers Aug. 11. The text read as follows:

Dear .....,

The Australian parliament on August 9 passed the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill (2016) effectively banning all online gambling sites that are not locally licensed under Australian State or Territory law. We’ve been aware of this day coming and have done our best to keep you informed, but we can confirm that we’ll be closing our real money poker tables to players in Australia, most likely around mid-September. We will contact you as soon as a firm date is confirmed.

Your funds are, and will continue to be, safe and available for withdrawal. Remember to open any unopened Stars Rewards Chests you have, and you can continue to spend your StarsCoin in the Rewards Store. A $1 Cash Rebate has been added to facilitate converting your StarsCoin to cash. Any tournament tickets and tournament money will be converted to cash for withdrawal, effective from the market exit date. We have provided a FAQ page here.

We’re proud to have seen the Australian poker community grow so strong over the last decade. We do respect the Australian Government's decision in taking steps to protect consumers and hope that in time we’ll be able to serve real money poker to you again. In the meantime, we will continue to offer play money poker and we hope to continue to welcome many Australian players to our tables.

We’d also like to thank the Australian Online Poker Alliance for their campaigning on behalf of the game and suggest that you consider lending them your voice if you’d like to see a regulated return of online poker to Australia.

Regards, PokerStars

The “mid-September” departure date turned out to be Sept. 11, 2017. PokerStars aims to operate in full compliance with local laws whenever possible, so it's no surprise that it won't be accepting any more Australian action. The fact that rewards were paid in full, including a $1 rebate option using StarsCoin, means players got all the value they were entitled to from the volume they'd already put in, which is not always a given when dealing with poker rooms departing from countries.

What's Next for PokerStars in AU?

The last line of the Stars email hints at possible future developments in Australia: “We’d also like to thank the Australian Online Poker Alliance for their campaigning on behalf of the game and suggest that you consider lending them your voice if you’d like to see a regulated return of online poker to Australia.” The recently passed legislation doesn't ban internet poker altogether; it merely prohibits unlicensed sites from operating in the country. There currently isn't any licensing scheme set up, so this may seem to be a distinction without a difference. There's nothing prohibiting such a system from being implemented, however, so the best thing for Australians to do might be to lobby their legislators to create one.

Largely as a result of the efforts of Senator David Leyonhjelm, the Senate has commissioned an inquiry into online poker, and many poker fans have submitted their personal stories, opinions, and poker histories for consideration. The inquiry will make its report by Sept. 14. It's highly likely that any moves toward setting up a regulatory framework for online poker will have to wait until after this date. Because PokerStars is being proactive in playing by the rules, it stands a good chance of being at or near the head of the list of operators if the authorities do eventually opt to legalize and regulate the game.

Curious what sites will still allow Australians to play poker after the ban goes into affect? These sites will, and all of them have a long-standing positive relationship having served other gray markets like the USA.

PokerStars no real money gaming in your country warning!

What to Do in the Mean Time

Until that joyous day when PokerStars returns in full force to the Land Down Under, you have several options when it comes to sites to play at. You see, some firms are willing to take the risk of possibly being held to be in violation of the laws. You might expect such companies to be shady or dishonest, but in most cases, this is not true at all. There are many organizations that specialize in serving “gray” markets, most notably the United States's online poker scene, and they have been doing so dependably for years. The cryptocurrency Bitcoin is instrumental in facilitating payments to and from such providers because it allows users to circumvent meddlesome government controls, and it carries low fees. If you haven't yet jumped on the Bitcoin bandwagon, then you may wish to peruse our guide on using this digital currency for online wagering.

To VPN or not to VPN

While the online poker legislation was still up for debate, Senator David Leyonhjelm spoke out against it, saying:

I believe individuals have a right to make decisions for themselves, no matter whether we would make the same decisions ourselves…Finally, if the legislation passes, I would like to take this opportunity to give some advice to online poker players. Notwithstanding the risk of offshore hosts, screw the government: get yourself a VPN and an offshore account and carry on as you were.

Online poker fans have a true friend in the person of Sen. Leyonhjelm, but there's no need to resort to the kinds of tactics he was talking about. You see, all the legitimate offshore sites that serve Australia do so without having to disguise their activities. They follow World Trade Organization rulings, which permit them to service any member country and advertise worldwide. You can open an account, play, and receive payouts without having to pay for VPN service, make a fake ouside address, or acquire a foreign bank account. Just use your true personal info when signing up, and play like normal from your computer. You won't encounter any stumbling blocks.

Ignition Poker Is Ready for You

Ignition Poker Logo

After PokerStars left, the largest site remaining for Australians is Ignition Casino Poker, which only opened up its poker platform and games to Aussies a few months ago. You'll get a 100% up to $1,350 bonus for poker when you deposit here along with a 100% up to $1,000 match to use in the casino. Check out our fully loaded Ignition Poker review for more information. If you'd like to take a look at the other rooms open to AU before making a decision, then browse over to our guide to poker sites for Australians.