Tasmania Imposes Sudden Ban on Poker Outside of Casinos, Deeming it Illegal Gambling

Posted on: November 27, 2023, 06:48h.

Last updated on: November 27, 2023, 06:48h.

Tasmania was the first state in Australia to introduce legalized gambling and, like many other parts of the world, poker has become a huge part of the ecosystem. That has now changed, as the government has decided to ban the game everywhere, except at its casinos.

Players celebrate after Sam Perkins won the 2022 Australian Poker League Tasmania Main Event
Players celebrate after Sam Perkins won the 2022 Australian Poker League Tasmania Main Event. The state has decided to ban all poker unless it takes place at a casino. (Image: APL Major Events via X)

The ban seemingly comes from what constitutes legal gambling in Tasmania. Despite having operated for years without issue, organizations like the Tasmanian Poker League and Australian Poker League (APL) are apparently now unwelcome.

The government, with the help of the Tasmanian Liquor & Gaming Commission (TLGC), the state’s gaming regulator, decided that the game of poker was illegal only in clubs and pubs. As long as a casino organizes a game, there’s no problem.

Poker Clubs Forced to Fold

Craig Abernethy, the founder of the Australian Poker Schedule website, brought the ban to the attention of Casino.org. At the heart of the issue is how the clubs set up their tournaments and games.

Tasmania doesn’t allow poker games that require a cash buy-in unless a casino is the host – it’s the only Australian state with this prohibition. To get around it, poker clubs, and even friendly pick-up games at pubs, have employed a unique solution. Instead of cash, players can buy merchandise as their buy-in.

Poker is a game that anyone can and does play and compete at, from seniors, the deaf and hard of hearing community, people with a disability, male, female, young, and old, it doesn’t discriminate,” said Australian Poker Schedule founder Craig Abernethy.

When the TLGC figured out how the process was working, after receiving a tip from someone, it decided to squash the practice. Now, the three organized poker clubs operating in Tasmania, and their thousands of players, are out of luck.

Abernethy pointed out that the ban will impact “hundreds of people” that the poker operators currently employ. The clubs and pubs also make money from food and beverage sales, and the TLGC’s decision will cause an economic ripple at perhaps the worst time of the year.

The ban reportedly covered only those games that used the merchandise purchasing system as the buy-in. However, the Tasmanian Poker League said on its Facebook page that it was canceling a freeroll – an event that has no buy-in fee – because of the ban.

Ban Bites into Entain

The TLGC has argued that it isn’t the presence of a cash buy-in that is at issue – it’s any type of buy-in. Any non-casino poker game that requires an entry fee to participate is prohibited by the state’s gaming regulations.

The decision not only impacts hundreds of club and pub workers and thousands of players, but it also bites into global gaming operator Entain’s revenue. The gaming company purchased the APL earlier this year.

Entain said in a statement that the APL ran poker games for “25,000 customers in pubs and clubs” in Tasmania over the past year. It, along with the other poker clubs and industry heavyweights like Abernethy, are now trying to get the TLGC to undo the mess it created.

Perhaps they can try a different approach. In Texas, some poker clubs have had success in legally circumventing the state’s ban on gambling by employing a unique system. The tournaments and games are freerolls, but the clubs charge a membership. There’s no rake, and a game with a $10,000 prize pool means 100% of the money goes to the winners.

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