As the Australian poker industry continues to rebuild in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, so too does it present an opportunity for all of us to pause and reflect on what we all can do to ensure the game’s long-term viability. In order to get the conversation started, PokerMedia Australia invited our viewers to join us in our first-ever virtual forum.
PMA’s inaugural Q&A session was held late last month on our Discord server, peaking at 20 users throughout the course of the public forum. The session was co-hosted by Managing Editor Ben Blaschke and Head of Content Landon Blackhall.
Amongst the most prominent industry figures involved in the discussion included APT Operations Manager David Miles, APL National Events Manager Benjamin Young and Australian Poker Schedule founder Craig Abernethy.
Together with a group of players and staff from both the professional and recreational markets, PMA engaged in a 90-minute discussion that covered several major important topics affecting the Australian poker market today.
VIRTUAL REALITY: WILL ONLINE POKER RETURN TO OZ?
The PMA Q&A was headlined by a robust discussion regarding online poker, which had once again been brought into the spotlight due to pending legal action by the Australian Communications & Media Authority (ACMA) against two individuals and a company alleging breaches of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001.
Based on our interview almost two years ago to the day, with the head of the Australian Online Poker Alliance (AOPA) Joey Del Duca, PMA understands that the lobbying group had met with federal legislators to discuss the possibility of amending the Act to allow for regulated online poker.
A bill had also been drawn up and was on the verge of being tabled in Parliament, however, the COVID-19 pandemic brought all that progress to a screeching halt.
Given that this would be an issue that would not be addressed until after the upcoming Federal election – and that almost all political parties have been known to be reticent in their stance on online gambling in general – it may be some time before we see any significant movement on this.
That said, PMA is also aware that the AOPA is currently expanding its team in order to further its pursuits, and we will keep our readers informed with any further updates as they come to hand.
CONSIGNED TO HISTORY? FUTURE OF AUSSIE MILLIONS IN DOUBT
Another one of our frequently asked questions was also addressed: the likelihood of the return of the Aussie Millions Poker Championship at Crown Melbourne.
At its peak, the Aussie Millions was the fifth-largest tournament series of its kind in the world and lauded by many of the top international players as one of the ultimate poker destinations. Often scheduled concurrently with the Australian Open tennis and other major sporting and cultural events in the month of January, the Aussie Millions was also integral to tourism for the state of Victoria pre-COVID.
It was also arguably one of the strongest standalone poker brands on the planet, highlighted by the $10,600 buy-in Main Event acquiring year-on-year growth under the watchful eye of then Director of Poker Operations, Joel Williams.
During his tenure, Crown Poker’s extensive live satellite programme generated on average around 40-50% of entries into the Main Event, a feat made more impressive given there was no significant presence from online qualifiers after the major sites – including PokerStars & 888poker – exited the Australian market in 2017.
Despite overwhelming evidence to support the wider economic benefits that the game brings into any integrated resort – facts that are most certainly not lost on Star Entertainment, as of late – anecdotal evidence from numerous sources close to PMA suggests that poker has always been considered by executives at Crown Resorts as the very least of their priorities.
Given that Crown Melbourne is currently subject to a raft of operational restrictions now in effect as a result of recommendations handed down after the Victorian Royal Commission, the response to poker fans and followers on their social media channels (or lack thereof), in our view, is hardly surprising – and does not bode well for the return of tournament poker in general, let alone the Aussie Millions.
To be fair, it’s a similar story for Crown Perth, and cash games are still available at both properties, but there may be a silver lining to all of this, as it now presents an opportunity for poker league operators in both Victoria and WA to work with their gaming regulators to provide more commercially viable opportunities to host major tournaments that those in NSW, Queensland and SA now take for granted.
PMA has since confirmed that representatives from poker league operators in WA are in the process of commencing talks with the Gaming and Wagering Commission in order to revaluate the state’s Community Poker guidelines, which according to the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries website, were due for review last month. Watch this space.
GOING ALL IN: MAKING POKER ACCESSIBLE
Another great question that was raised by one of our attendees was regarding how the industry could improve when it comes to inclusion, particularly when it comes to women in poker, which has once again become a prominent topic of discussion on Twitter on an international scale.
Whilst there has been a concerted effort by many within our industry to encourage further participation from women, PMA has affirmed that there is always more that can be done by all of us to ensure the game is inclusive for all.
Naturally, it’s of vital importance that the industry champions the efforts of our established and emerging female players – Marsha Waggoner, Jackie Glazier, Jennifer Cassell, Luci Bonaccorso, Michelle Psarras and Suzy Khouiss – just to name a few.
Equally, the tireless work from those on the ‘other side of the felt’ should also be recognised: our dealers, tournament directors, league administrators, brand ambassadors and media representatives, especially from Australia’s own Lynn Gilmartin, Angelica Hael and Ashleigh Lawrence, who are all an integral part of the World Poker Tour’s global arm and have contributed so much to the brand’s success on home soil.
That being said, any opportunity to promote poker in a positive light should also serve as a stark reminder to everyone in the industry that we still find ourselves in a position where true equity is not being achieved in a game that all but assures it.
PMA is already taking several initiatives on this front, including the recruitment and mentoring of female Live Reporting staff, as well as announcing plans to host an all-women’s edition of the PMA Podcast, with further information regarding the launch of Season 3 to be released soon.
For more information on all that’s happening on and around the Aussie felt, bookmark pokermedia.com.au in your browsers and on your home screens. Be sure to also follow us on Discord, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube for even more exclusive content and to engage with fellow members of the PMA community.