Sportsbet urges live sports betting approval in Australia

2 December 2015

Australian wagering operator Sportsbet has called on the country’s government to allow local bookmakers to promote and offer in-play online betting services in order to combat the threat of offshore companies.

According to a number of media outlets in Australia, the Paddy Power-owned company has warned more punters may opt to begin using unregulated offshore services if the government does not enable local operators to offer online betting during play.

The 2001 Interactive Gambling Act (IGA) states that while bets on live matches can be taken at retail outlets or over the phone, operators cannot offer the same service via the internet.

However, various major operators such as Bet365 and William Hill have argued against this regulation, stating the distinction between online and phone is now out-of-date and is not in line with modern practice.

William Hill Australia in October claimed victory in a legal battle over its ‘Click to Call’ betting feature after it was confirmed the Australian Federal Police (AFP) would not investigate the bookmaker for breaching regulations.

“In a real sense the IGA is ‘analogue’ legislation ill-suited and ill-equipped to deal with the digital age,” Sportsbet said in a submission to a review into the impact of offshore wagering.

“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.”

Sportsbet said that opening up the market to Australian operators would stem the flow of punters to offshore companies, estimating that up to Aus$2.2 billion (€1.5 billion/US$1.6 billion) could be lost to offshore betting by 2020.

“Blanket gambling prohibition does not work in the digital age,” Sportsbet said.

“Measures to address the increasing threat of offshore operators without addressing the root of the problem and the fundamental reason why Australians are betting offshore: access to the in-play product via mobile devices and the internet – will not achieve the outcome the government is seeking.

“In this context, improving appropriate supply is plainly the best way to cut off popular demand.”

Meanwhile, Australia’s major sports have also called for an end to the prohibition of online in-play betting, with the Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports (COMPPS) branding current law as “anachronistic”.

COMPPS, made up of the national bodies for Australian rules football, cricket, football, netball, rugby league, rugby union and tennis, said the law “poses a relatively higher risk” to integrity than if regulated and licensed operators could control some of the betting currently headed offshore.

In contrast, Australia’s racing industry submission argued that online in-play wagering on sports could cost it AUS$10m each year, while the Australian Hotels Association, whose members include pubs with betting outlets, has urged the committee to refrain from changing the status quo.

Final recommendations from the review will be submitted to Social Services Minister Christian Porter by December 18.

Related article: William Hill Australia claims victory in ‘Click to Call’ battle