Like most countries, Australia has an underbelly or underground of various industries, be it security, sex, tourism, drugs and you guessed it - gambling. While most of Australia's casino, poker and other gambling sub sectors are out in the open, some are not we learn. Media Man and Gambling911 dig beneath the underbelly of the Australian gambling sector and uncover some interesting facts...
Down Under Gambling's Secret Millionaires...
Some are Australia's secret millionaires and some are anything but, but they both love the punt... often via online poker. They have ups and downs. Many players make a full time living out of it, while others job hop, visit Centrelink for their fortnight welfare payment, and keep their poker dream alive. Once in a while some win the big one or even get lucky on online slots. The smart ones stick with games of skill, where there's not so much "luck" involved.
For many young Australian entrepreneurs normal jobs are out of the question, and turn to the web in search of something better and riches, and a growing number have found online poker and website portal creation as a way to rise up and express their entrepreneurial spirit and enjoy playing, even creating, games for financial reward.
They "work" pretty much when they like, make money sometimes tax free, party with mates when they choose, hang out in internet cafes, and you get the idea.
Banana Bender land in Queensland, as well as a growing number of young guys in 'Sin City' Sydney is where most of the gurus call home.
Up in Northern Queensland, Townsville to be precise, there's a talented online poker player... lets call him Dominic. He's ranked second in Queensland, according to poker tracking website Pocket Fives. He's played full-time since 2007, bringing in thousands via tournaments that sometimes only last half a working day.
He trained as a teacher, got a psychology degree and then discovered online poker. Coombe knew full time poker was the way to go after winning a $40,000 jackpot during a seven-hour online tournament. His biggest win has been $101,000.
"With poker, I started winning small tournaments and then gradually bigger and bigger ... and the snowball just started rolling. I love the game and I love being my own boss. It's just the flexibility and not having to answer to someone else."
Many of the online poker sharks are pretty low key when it come to news media reports. Coombe won't say what his total career winnings are.
We understand that the top 10 ranked players earn up to $750,000 a year, but basically all of the players have to put in a big days work to help make sure they come out on top at the end of the week - day - month. Over 12 hours a day, 7 days a week... whatever it takes.
"For a high stakes player it's quite normal to have downswings of $50,000 or $100,000. You could have a year when you could make $200,000 and another year that's nowhere near that," Coombe said.
The Australian Tax Office said gambling winnings were only taxed if it was part of "business operations" but the definition remained unclear in the online world.
Australian online poker players have watch with keen interest last week's US indictment of the founders of the three largest websites - PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker.
The FBI charged 11 people with bank fraud, money laundering and illegal gambling and most players in the US were unable to withdraw their bankroll from websites.
Online poker comes with many grey areas in the legal area, keeping many a legal eagle employed.
A Media Man spokesperson said "I don't play online poker and have hardly ever played online slots for money. We run a media and new media company and covering the online gambling sector is just one of a dozen sectors we cover. We write articles on all matter of things and participate in a number of affiliate programs across a wide range of industries from property to mobiles, travel, as well as doing some for games. We also have ran some media and publicity campaigns and assist celebrities campaigns from time to time. We're not a gambling company or an adult company. We're a media and new media company, who cover the gaming and gambling sector from a global perspective, in addition to many other industries. It's pretty much business as usual, but also hope to expand to Canada and Italy later this year where they are not so many grey areas. The internet and online poker encourage the entrepreneurial spirit and help many people achieve their dreams and aspirations away from the grind of a normal job. The internet is one of the greatest inventions ever and online poker and casino games are perfect for the medium. It's not going away and will only grow in popularity".
U.S - Aussie Banks and Online Poker American - Sydney Sin City Web Host Connection...
Australian banks have been handling payments to overseas-based online poker sites that have been illegally taking up to a $1 billion a year in bets from local punters.
Several of the major Australian financial institutions have been used by Sydney-based payment processors to take deposits from punters on the world's biggest online poker sites, which were targeted last weekend in a US money-laundering sting.
St George Bank -- one of the institutions named by the the poker websites to use for "local bank transfers" -- said it was unaware that one of its clients, Envoy Services, was processing payments of local punters to outlawed online gaming operators PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker.
"We were not aware of their links to these online companies and will be investigating further," a St George Bank spokesman said after being shown evidence by the media.
Australian Bank Caught Up In U.S Online Poker Scandal...
The United States major crime fighting unit, the FBI smacked money-laundering, bank-fraud and gambling charges last weekend against the three huge online poker firms - PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker - after targeting US-based payment processors that had tricked banks into handling the financial transactions.
Down under in Australia federal legislation introduced in 2001 prohibits gambling sites offering poker, bingo and casino games to Australians. The websites thought to be required to include warnings to this effect, but online gambling comes with a lot of grey areas and legally untested areas. The legislation allows Australian-based firms to offer the same services to overseas-based players, at least in most cases, but again, many gray areas exist. A website can change web hosts from Australia, then to Europe, Canada, and so the list goes on. Think like Wikipedia with back ups around the world.
Last year a Productivity Commission report advised many overseas-based websites were openly flouting the law by only instructing users to check the law in their jurisdiction before using the website, and predicted that about $1bn in online bets would be snatched from Aussies last year. The commission called for the online gaming industry to be legalised so it could be regulated and taxed.
Aussie celebs such as Shane Warne, and poker celebs such as Stewart Scott, are the face of some online poker rooms, which often cross sell online casino games. Australia's have taken to the Hollywood themed online slot games from PartyGaming, which recently merged with bwin to become bwin.party digital entertainment. Even the WWE, yes, the wrestling giant, has an online poker brand, so does Hustler - the hard core men's adult magazine, and Marvel Comics themed slot games are all the rage, with Thor and The Incredible Hulk enjoying massive patronage with Australians.
Australian regulators such as the Australian Communication and Media Authority and the Australian Federal Police have not enforced the ban, despite ACMA confirming it had received 46 "valid complaints" about the websites in the 2009-10 financial year.
An ACMA spokesperson said those complaints were "still being investigated". Online gambling companies and website portal operators are known to be well lawyer ed up... you know, legal eagles in abundance to protest the nest eggs, and a massive amount of legal "grey area" remains.
It has also come to light that all three major online gaming operators targeted in the US investigation had their sites hosted by Sydney-based IP servers. Yep, 'Sin City' Sydney did it again.
The news comes as the Gillard Labor government attempts to put limits on pokies following a push by the independent MP Andrew Wilkie to reduce problem gambling. Internet Industry Association chief executive Peter Coroneos said the 2001 laws were ineffective.
Reports and rumours have surfaced in the past few weeks that the big 3 poker websites have lost a lot players but PartyPoker, PartyCasino and PKR are all up. Website portals such as Media Man have showcased some games available, in addition to rules of play, legal aspects and commentary, and so on.
A Media Man spokesperson said "How do you mandate human behavior. Many Aussies just love a punt, and that's just the way it is. When you make something illegal or hard to get, more often than not it becomes more popular. The thought police have experienced a backlash in Australia and the gambling debate has proved a major trigger point for it. If you can bet on it, most Aussies will give it a go mate. Good luck".
Punters, er readers, stay glued to Media Man reports via Gambling911 for more "can't miss" information on Australian pokies and gaming wars.
*Greg Tingle is a special contributor for Gambling911
*Media Man http://www.mediamanint.com is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company. They cover a dozen industry sectors including gaming.
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