The Australian Online Poker Alliance (AOPA) has called on poker players in the country to lobby their local politicians to support legalizing online poker ahead of this year’s federal election.

Australians will head to the polls on May 18 and the AOPA is hoping the elections will help pave the way for legal online poker in the country.

At present, Australians online poker is unregulated, meaning players have to access illegal, offshore sites. Legalising internet poker activities has been discussed by lawmakers in the country for years, but the government is yet to push ahead with firm plans, and is instead looking to force operators out of the market.

In November last year it claimed tough new penalties had forced 33 operators to pull out of the market, though the AOPA said that this simply resulted in new entrants replacing the departed sites.

Joseph Del Duca, founder of the AOPA, is now urging online poker fans across the country to make their voices heard at the elections and join with his organisation in calling on those running for office to support regulated gambling.

“By failing to regulate online poker the government has left the tens of thousands of Australians who enjoy playing online poker regularly at risk, forcing them into the hands of unscrupulous black market operators instead of providing a safe, regulated market for Australian online poker players,” he said. “We call on all poker players to use their vote wisely at the next election. Ask those running for election in your seat whether they support safe, regulated online poker.

“The AOPA will be asking all candidates this and passing the information on to the Australian poker community. This matter is too important for us to stop fighting.”

The AOPA has met with the current government on a number of occasions to discuss the matter, but says little progress has been made despite claiming that politicians have made assurances that legislation is in the works.

Del Duca said that the current approach in not legalising online poker does not work, with players instead turning to offshore sites in order to play. He said this leaves them at risk from harm and it is the duty of the government to protect its citizens.

“Regardless of who wins the next election, the Government must act in the interest of Australia by regulating online poker,” he said.” This not only provides more revenue to Australia but freedom to Australians to enjoy a hobby they love and the ability to do so in a safe, protected environment.

“When the new government is decided after the next election we will be severely ramping up the fight to bring poker back to our country.”

According to the most recent voter intention poll from Essential, Australia could be set for a very close race between the ruling National-Liberal Coalition and the Australian Labor Party (ALP).

The poll, carried out from January 9-13, suggests both parties will win 38% of the vote. However, the two-party-preferred vote, places the ALP ahead on 53%, with the Coalition on 47%.

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