Australia’s state of Tasmania bans live poker for cash or prizes except in casinos

Haley Hintze
Published by:
Posted on: November 29, 2023 8:41 pm EST

Australia’s smallest state in terms of both population and area, Tasmania, has formally banned any form of live poker that is played for money, prizes, or includes other forms of consideration, unless the poker is being hosted by one of the state’s licensed casinos.

Tasmania, the island state south of Melbourne and separated from the rest of Australia by the Bass Strait, has only about 575,000 residents, about a sixth of whom live in the state’s capital Hobart. Live poker is already scarce in the state, with three poker leagues hosting occasional games and tournaments and only one casino having a permanent room, that being the tiny four-table set-up at Hobart’s Wrest Point Hotel Casino.

The ban on poker was detailed in a recently updated fact sheet issued by Tasmania’s Department of Treasury and Finance. The updated rules were codified in August but not published until Wednesday, November 22, amid a larger update of fact sheets related to the state’s liquor and gaming operations.

Combined with Australia’s nationwide ban on online poker, the game’s enthusiasts will now face a struggle to find any legal place to play. Poker clubs and associations such as the Tasmanian Poker League and Australian Poker League (APL) are not themselves technically banned in the state, but they now must find a way to partner with any of just a few licensed casinos in Tasmania that might have the space and be willing to be host and operate poker events.

Though limited to Tasmania only, the legal clarification represents another blow to the game in Australia. The country has also sought to ban club-style online poker networks, and live poker events are only beginning to recover after massive regulatory problems forced Melbourne’s Crown Casino to shelve its long-running Aussie Millions poker festival.

Licensed casino operators only

In a sub-category fact sheet dedicated solely to poker, Tasmania’s Department of Treasury and Finance bluntly answered the question of who can offer poker for any wager of value. “Only a licensed casino operator can run a poker game or tournament that involves wagering of money or anything of value,” DTF stated. “This includes running an event where an entry fee is charged and prizes are won.
Running such an event without a licence is illegal.”

The department followed that overview statement with several paragraphs detailing how certain loopholes were being closed, including the purchase of merchandise as an alternate form of entry. Also clarified as being illegal are freerolls where cash or prizes of value are awarded, even where the players offered nothing of value to participate.

Only play-money or play-chip poker escaped the DTF’s broad decrees. The department concluded its update and affirmative ban on almost all poker by offering a brief FAQ, which reads as follows:

Frequently asked questions

Can chips with no monetary value be used in poker tournaments?
Yes. The use of playing chips or play money when conducting a poker game involving prizes is permitted providing there is no cost to purchase the chips or play money, or to participate in the game.

Does the Tasmanian Liquor and Gaming Commission restrict the location of tournaments?
No. Restrictions are not imposed by the Tasmanian Liquor and Gaming Commission on the location
where poker tournaments may be conducted, provided they are run lawfully.

Can venue operators require players to make a donation or purchase some other goods or service, for example the purchase of a T-shirt, in order to play?
No. Where an operator requires patrons to make a payment to participate in a game involving prizes, by way of compulsory ‘donation’ or the purchasing of any goods or services, the game is illegal.

Can I conduct a game or tournament that does not offer any prizes?
Yes. A game or tournament that does not involve any prizes (of monetary or other value) may be
conducted.

Source: https://www.treasury.tas.gov.au/