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PokerStars, 888 Poker pulled from Australian iTunes store

Two poker apps that were in contravention of Australian gambling laws have been pulled from the Australian iTunes store after being available for over a year.

Two poker apps that were in contravention of Australian gambling laws have been pulled from the Australian iTunes store after being available for over a year.

(Credit: PokerStars; CBSi)

PokerStars, which went live on the Australian iTunes App Store in May 2012, after pulling its operation out of Australia in 2011, and 888 Poker have been pulled after theintervention of the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE).

In April, Apple and PokerStars came under fire from Greens Senator Dr Richard Di Natale for contravening the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (Cth), which states that "A person is guilty of an offence if the person intentionally provides an interactive gambling service" to Australian customers, with a maximum penalty of a fine of AU$340,000 per day for individuals and US$1.7 million per day for bodies corporate.

PokerStars and 888 Poker both allowed Australian gamers to play digital poker games with real money, and their removal has prompted outrage from fans of the apps, both of which were massively popular. At the time of writing, 888 Poker still has a live website in Australia, and PokerStars remains available for Android via Google Play.

In March this year, the DBCDE released a report that noted the Act has heretofore been useless, quoting the NSW Government:

With no prosecutions having been conducted under the Act to date, the Act's ability to effectively prevent Australians from accessing overseas online gaming sites would appear to be minimal.

An Apple spokesperson told CNET Australia that previously, no gambling apps had needed to be taken down from local iTunes store, and that the company complies with local law. They did not know how the apps had managed to pass Apple's approval process.

It is interesting to see a law that has remained in disuse for 12 years suddenly be called into use against Apple, while leaving other gambling websites and smartphone platforms alone, but government bodies and other advocacy groups have recently started paying attention to in-app spending.

Earlier this year, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) called upon the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to investigate the freemium game model. Late last year, the Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Council also announced an inquiry into mobile commerce.