THE calls for the legalisation of live online sports betting in Australia are growing louder and louder as the punting world’s big hitters move in to lend their support.
Hot on the heels of the Federal Government review of the archaic Interactive Gambling Act, The big corporate bookies have joined with casino operators and the major sporting codes in a push to allow punters to place their bets during a game via the internet.
And they even want foreign owned bookies banned in a move that is sure to ruffle some feathers.
But they still have a fight on their hands, with defiant anti gambling MP Nick Xenophon introducing a bill into the Federal Parliament that would ban in play betting – WilliamHill.com.au’s loophole service that allows live bets to be placed provided the microphone on your phone is turned on, which has been adopted by several other online bookies in Australia – credit betting and micro bets.
And the government’s sports integrity unit has also warned that any move to legalise live betting online could severely compromise sporting events, due to corruption.
Placing a live bet online during an event is illegal in Australia, but the in play feature does allow punters to use their mobile phone. They can also phone up their bookmaker to lay their live bet, or do it at a bricks and mortar establishment.
Australians splurged an estimated $4.6 billion on sports betting in 2013-14, a staggering figure, with $2.75 billion of that estimated to have come from online punters.
You only have to look at the big issues that have plagued Cricket Australia’s domestic competition, the wildly popular T20 Big Bash League.
Officials reportedly held talks with international bookmakers, who are unregulated by Australian law, in a bid to ensure match fixing and other corruption did not creep into the competition.
It is incredibly difficult to detect many forms of match fixing, which often involve small moments in the match. It would be incredibly easy for a batsman to give his wicket away in a certain method of dismissal, allowing corrupt punters to cash in.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports estimates are there could be more than $3 billion wagered on the competition this season and that has prompted Cricket Australia to seek talks with overseas bookies, like SBOBET (The Philippines) and Pinnacle Sports (Caribbean) in the hopes it can prevent match and spot fixing.
Former New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell led the review of the outdated act, which was established before the advent of smart phones placed online gambling at the tip of punters’ fingers.
The big bookies, like James Packers CrownBet.com.au were among 79 persons and organisations that made submissions to the review, along with large sporting bodies like the Australian Sports Commission.
They argue that the advent of legalised online gambling on live events would keep Aussie punters’ dollars in Australia, rather than sending them overseas where they can place the bets without issue.
Almost 75 per cent of all sports betting in Europe is placed on live events.
“There are strong arguments that reducing offshore betting and providing online betting opportunities onshore will be beneficial from an integrity perspective,” the commission stated in its submission.
“Wagering operators in Australia are regulated, invest significant resources themselves into monitoring suspicious betting activity, and are required to share data with sport controlling bodies to aid sport-led investigations into suspicious betting.”
In only a loosely veiled dig at competitor William Hill, CrownBet wants off shore operators made illegal on Australian soil, calling for their ISP to be blocked in the country.
“Offshore operators which choose to ignore the IGA (and other Australian laws) are able to offer a more fulsome and competitive suite of wagering products to Australian residents,” it’s submission stated.
“The most obvious example is that offshore operators freely offer in-play sports wagering online.”
Bear in mind William Hill’s controversial in-play betting system was referred to the Australian Federal Police, which decided not to investigate, despite calls from the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
Mr Xenophon says the only thing fuelling the move is greed from the bookmakers.
“It seems the regulators don’t care if people are bankrupt and their lives ruined,” Mr Xenophon said.
“It’s driven by greed.
“This issue won’t go away.
“I predict there is an increasing number of Australians concerned about this, particularly the harm to young men.
“I would like to think if the Coalition thinks it will lose votes by not being in line with community expectations, that might prompt the government to work hard on this.”
There is conjecture over how much money does go off shore, with the review estimating it to be about $1 billion on more than 2000 illegal off shore betting sites each year. sportsbet.com.au believes that figure will rise to some $2.2 billion by 2020 if something is not done.
The review was handed to the government before Christmas and is now under consideration.
For the times, they are a changing. Who knows exactly how this will play out, but one thing is for sure, the sports betting scene on Australian shores is set to look vastly different in 2016 than it did in 2015. It will be interesting to see what measures the government instills following the review of the Interactive Gambling Act. While there is certainly considerable damaged caused by gambling in our communities, at the end of the day, people are free to do what they see fit with their money. We have always encouraged people to ensure they gamble within their means. We live in a time where free will is encouraged and it is time for the Australian sorts betting industry to catch up with the rest of the world and allow punters to cash in on the fluctuating odds available during live sporting events. Is there really a difference between placing a phone call to put your live bet down or doing it on your smart phone, computer or tablet? Apart from convenience, we would argue that there is none. When the types of heavies like major sporting codes, TV networks and big corporations push for something to happen, it usually happens in some way shape or form. Be prepared for the brace new punting world.
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