The move comes off the back of a piece of controversial anti-gambling legislation currently under consideration by the Parliament of Australia. The Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill, which has passed in the House of Representatives and will be debated in the Senate later this year, seeks to ban many forms of online gambling, including online poker. Ignition is no stranger to operating outside the auspices of government regulation, having exclusively served US gamblers in spite of the murky legal status of online gambling in the US since 2011.
The site has achieved widespread popularity in the US because of its intuitive design and the dependability of its cashier. Because it doesn’t have much in the way of competition – there’s America’s Cardroom, WSOP.com, and a few others – it has been fairly successful in establishing itself as a successor to PokerStars. This is most apparent in its Zone Poker offering, which is functionally identical to PokerStars’ Zoom Poker, save for the fact that players’ identities are hidden from other players.
By accepting Australian players, it is likely that Ignition hopes to serve as a replacement to legitimate poker sites in Australia, similarly to how it did in the US. Some online poker rooms have already left in anticipation of the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill passing. 888, one the world’s leading online casinos, ceased serving Australian players in January of this year, and many other sites are expected to follow suit before the bill goes to debate later this year.
The timing of Ignition’s opening to Australian players certainly makes it seem like a targeted effort to undermine the bill. Whether or not they will be successful in doing so remains to be seen. They’ve managed to successfully serve US gamblers for the past few years. However, this is largely due to a technicality in US online gambling laws which makes it illegal for banks to process transactions intended for online gambling, but does not outlaw online gambling as such. It is unclear if the Australian government will afford them such leniency.
Regardless of whether or not Ignition is successful, Australians will still be able to gamble if they make the switch to bitcoin. Operators of bitcoin gambling sites typically do not care about where there customers are playing from. Moreover, its virtually impossible to regulate bitcoin sites because of the sheer number of them as well, as the fact that the fact that the currency cannot be controlled by governments or banks.
An increasing proportion of the online gamblers are using bitcoin even in jurisdictions where online gambling is legal because of the benefits it offers. Bitcoin is faster to use and often cheaper depending on what site you use. It also allows players to remain completely anonymous. The main drawback of using bitcoin sites is that, because they are unregulated, if they take off with your bitcoin you have no financial recourse. However, the bitcoin gambling industry is self-regulating in the sense that a site will only be successful if it can establish a reputation as trustworthy and reliable.
With Ignition and a host of other bitcoin sites ready to pick up the pieces of the Australian online gambling market, it seems doubtful that the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill will be successful in preventing Australians from gambling online. However, if you live in Australia and have become particularly fond of a legitimate online casino, we’d advise that you make the most of it while it lasts, as it will probably be gone by the end of the year.