Australia sports bodies push for in-play betting

Australia’s leading sporting organizations have warned that a ban against licensed bookmakers from offering in-play betting has allowed illegal offshore bookmakers to flourish, threatening the integrity of their competitions.

“Any amount of betting that takes place with offshore betting operators poses a relatively higher risk to maintaining the betting ­integrity of a sport when compared to betting that takes place on the regulated Australian betting market,’’ they said in a joint submission to the O’Farrell review into the impact of offshore wagering.

The Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports (COMPPS) members believe that an important measure to combat the existing threat of offshore-unregulated betting ­operators is to remove the current prohibition on online in-play sports betting, it said.

Australia’s wagering operators have also weighed in. Sportsbet, owned by Irish betting giant Paddy Power, warned the government that not allowing in-play betting forces more gamblers onto the offshore “black market”. “In a real sense the [Interactive Gambling Act] is ‘analogue’ legislation ill-suited and ill-equipped to deal with the digital age.” Sportsbet said in a submission. “Consumers now expect to be able to wager on their mobile devices and over the internet but Australian licensed wagering service providers cannot legally provide this in-play product.”

 The betting company also added that if the government fails to make any changes, more than AU$2.2 billion ($1.6 billion) will be lost to offshore wagering operators by 2020, representing around $100 million a year in tax revenue.

In response to the media report from COMPPS, Senator Nick Xenophon has called the sporting codes greedy for wanting the Government to relax online sports gambling restrictions. “I can’t believe the greed of our sporting codes when it comes to gambling. It’s not enough for them to get billions of dollars in revenue from various broadcasting rights, but they now are getting many tens of millions of dollars from online gambling companies.”

“They are facilitating more addiction, more problems among their very fans, and also increasing the risk of a major betting scandal that will deeply damage the integrity of their sporting codes.”

The change is also fiercely resisted by hotel and club owners, as currently under the 2001 Interactive Gambling act, bookmakers can only accept in-play bets on sports over the telephone or at retail betting shops (including those at pubs, hotels and clubs). Australian Hotels Association argues the removal of prohibition on in-play would shift punters away from racing, with the racing industry and pubs being the hardest hit.

Clubs Australia also said in a submission to the review that online wagering companies should not be allowed to offer in-play betting. “In Clubs Australia’s view, Australia’s licensed online wagering operators have used the pretence of competition with illegal offshore wagering providers to extract a range of regulatory concessions from governments with respect to taxation and harm minimisation,” the industry body said in its submission. “Any suggestion that further regulatory concessions, such as live in-play betting, are warranted due to competitive pressures from illegal offshore wagering operators should be dismissed.”

Former NSW premier Barry O’Farrell is due to report the findings of his review to the federal government this month.