Roy Bhasin: Online Poker in Australia “Won't Change Anytime Soon”

Roy Bhasin
"I feel like the community in general is over-reacting to the news," says poker pro Roy Bhasin.

Australian Roy Bhasin makes a living playing poker on the internet but he's not worried about upcoming changes in Aussie government interfering with his livelihood.

Australia's next federal election will happen in just a few days and depending on the outcome, some in the poker community are concerned it could spell disaster for online poker Down Under.

The Liberal Party, currently playing opposition to a Labor Party government, has openly voiced its plan to crack down on online gambling and poker should it gain power.

But Bhasin told that people are overreacting if they think the situation in Australia is anything like what happened to the US on Black Friday.

“I'm personally not very concerned simply because there has been talk of this for years and nothing has happened,” explained Bhasin.

“And I don't expect anything to change any time soon.”

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Liberal leader Tony Abbott is online poker's most outspoken opponent.

Bhasin instead urges online poker players to exercise the same good sense he's always advocated.

“Of course anything can happen and nobody saw the UIGEA coming nor Black Friday, and there are certainly some bad signs, but by and large I feel like the community in general is over-reacting to the news,” said Bhasin.

“Be cautious and concerned, as you should always be, but I've noticed reading some forums an attitude that suggests as soon as the election is over there's a 95% chance online poker is going away.

“That just seems ridiculous to me.”

Aussie Online Poker Legislation Nothing New

The political party in power next week may be new, but the legislation restricting online poker in Australia has existed for years.

Roy Bhasin PokerStars
Through poker Bhasin has built a career and earned a sponsorship deal with PokerStars.

Online poker and gambling laws were introduced in 2001 in the form of the Interactive Gaming Act and although the law didn't make it illegal for Australians to play poker, it did make it illegal for companies to offer Australians real-money poker.

Australia just hasn't been enforcing those rules.

“There is of course a real possibility but that possibility has been there for years now,” said Bhasin.

“There's no denying certain politicians in Australia have anti-gambling agendas, and some specifically anti-online gambling, and they may gain some more power as a result of the upcoming election but I still feel like there are a lot of things working for poker that would see it not being taken away any time soon.

“For starters there are a lot more important issues the government has to focus on, like the distinction between poker being a game of skill vs. gambling and lastly the possibility of regulation that doesn't see online poker completely gone like it did with Black Friday in the US.

“I think a lot of people are comparing Australia and the US and expecting something similar to happen but there are a lot of differences between the two scenarios.”

Poker Commonly Misunderstood in Australia

Gambling is big business in Australia.

In 2007 they had the highest gambling rate by country on the planet with over 80 per cent of adults engaging in some form of wagering.

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Poker might misunderstood in Australia but it's definitely popular.

And unfortunately for those who consider poker to be a game of skill, it's often lumped in with activities like horse-racing, sports-betting and video poker machines, especially by law-makers.

“Us Australians love a punt,” said Bhasin. “And regarding pokies (video poker) yes, I do think there's a bit of a problem and I certainly think poker gets unfairly lumped into the same category there.”

Bhasin, who was headed for a dual degree in Commerce and Law before finding poker, is himself a compelling argument for poker being skill-based.

After seeing poker on television Bhasin began playing online and eventually deposited $50.

From there he built a bankroll and a career that was lucrative enough for him to completely turn away from his plan to become a lawyer.

How many video poker players can say the same?

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