Tasmanian poker on the rocks as regulator rules trade promotion system a form of prohibited gaming

The future of Tasmania’s live poker scene is in limbo after the state’s operators were on Thursday ordered by the gaming regulator to suspend all games other than those offered for free.

The Australian Poker League, Bullets Poker League and Tasmanian Poker League all issued notices on Thursday morning informing players that many of their offerings would be paused until further notice upon advice by the Tasmanian Liquor & Gaming Commission (TLGC) that they must change their current format.

Tasmania is the only state in Australia that does not permit the payment of cash to buy into poker games held outside of its casinos. Operators have traditionally skirted this rule by implementing a trade promotion system whereby players enter events by purchasing merchandise in lieu of a cash buy-in.

Operators PMA spoke to said use of the trade promotion system had previously been approved by TLGC but that the regulator had recently changed its interpretation of Tasmania’s Gaming Control Act 1993.

In response to PMA’s queries, TLGC revealed it recently conducted a review into the operation of poker in Tasmania and its lawful conduct under the Act after receiving a complaint from an unnamed party.

“The Commission’s review identified that some current practices may not be compliant with the Act,” TLGC said. “The Commission considered that the current operation of some tournaments was very different to those it had previously considered and a cost of entry was effectively being charged in some instances.

“On the basis that players were paying an entry fee to participate in a poker tournament, the Commission was satisfied that players were gaming, which is prohibited, unless specifically authorised (sections 3 and 5A of the Act). Under the Act, only a licensed casino operator can run a poker game or tournament that involves wagering of money or charging an entry fee.

“Tournament operators have been provided with advice about how tournaments can be lawfully conducted, to enable them to continue to operate. In hotels and clubs, poker games or tournaments involving prizes can legally be operated providing that no fee or cost to participate is charged to play, and no money (or anything of value) is wagered by players.”

Tasmania’s three league operators were on Thursday scrambling to determine their next moves, which PMA understands may include lobbying government to rewrite poker-related legislation and bring it into line with mainland states.

Fully free games will, in the meantime, continue to run.

In a statement, APL owner Entain said, “Following correspondence from the Tasmanian Liquor and Gaming Commission, Entain Venues, which operates APL Poker, has suspended all poker operations in Tasmania.

“Over the past 12 months, APL Poker in Tasmania has seated more than 25,000 customers in pubs and clubs across the state.

“While this decision will be frustrating for those customers and the venues that benefit from their regular patronage, Entain Venues respects the view of the Commission and hopes to work with the regulator to navigate a path where social poker can again be enjoyed in Tasmanian venues.”

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