Australia Online Gambling Review Panel Receives More Submissions as Deadline Nears

As the December 18, 2015 deadline nears, for former NSW Premier Hon. Barry O’Farell to submit a final report on the review of Australian gambling laws, different representatives of wagering operators, professional sports codes, racing industry organisations and community groups have put forward their views mainly with regard to the legalisation of online in-play betting for sport matches.

The Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports (COMPPS) whose members comprise the AU Football League (AFL), AU National Rugby League (NRL), Football Federation Australia (FFA), Netball Australia, Cricket Australia (CA), and Tennis Australia, has submitted a position paper to the federal IGA review panel, expressing support for the legalisation of in-play betting via online sport betting facilities.

As it is, the 2001 Internet Gambling Act (IGA) allows in-play betting transacted via landline phones or retail outlets only, whilst prohibiting placing of live bets via online sportsbooks. COMPPS argues that the IGA prohibition against Internet-based in-play betting pose as a “blind-spot” to the integrity of Australia’s sport matches, as match-fixers take advantage of the prohibition. The ban only heightens the threats to the integrity of sport matches, as AU punters are being driven into the waiting arms of illegal online sportsbook operators who offer in-play wagering services.  As opposed to bets transacted via retail outlets and call service centers, COMPPS believes that Australia-licensed online bookmakers are in a better position to recognise the telltale signs of fixed-matches.

The CEO of Sportsbet Cormac Barry, through the company’s own submission stated that the IGA is no longer effective in the digital age. The Sportsbet CEO to the Australia business interest of Irish betting company Paddy Power calls the IGA, the analogue legislation — describing the Act as ill equipped and ill-suited to deal with today’s digital technology. He added that with the advent of digital communication devices, consumers now expect to have the convenience of being able to place in-play wagers using their mobile devices and via online.  The service however, is offered by illegal offshore betting operators only, as the IGA prohibits Australia-licensed operators from doing so.

Sportsbet CEO Barry contends that blocking of Internet-based and financial transactions are ineffective as means of stemming the entry of over 2,200 non Australia-licensed offshore betting operators. He asserts that it would be more sensible for the government to create a level playing field by allowing licensed Australia-based operators to offer the same kind of wagering service. He added that if the Australian government continues with the status quo, the government stands to lose more than AU$100 million annually in forgone taxes that could have been collected from offshore operators, who would gain as much as AU$2.2 billion by year 2020.

The Australian Racing Industry, however submitted a position paper conveying its opposition to the legalization of in-play sport betting, claiming that the racing industry would lose as much as AU$10 million per year. The Australian Hotels Association (AHA) likewise conveyed an opposing stand against the lifting of the prohibition on online in-play wagering, asserting that changing the status quo would adversely affect hotels, pubs, and clubs. According to the AHA, the likely scenario is that punters would shift to online/mobile betting instead of placing their bets at retail outlets located in their establishments.