ESSA responds to Australian review of illegal offshore wagering

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ESSA have issued a response to the Australian review of illegal offshore wagering, citing the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001 and stating that Australia had enforced an inconsistent position on in-play (or live) betting.

The following points from ESSA covered the inconsistency of this approach:

  •  Australia has enforced an inconsistent position on in-play (or live) betting. The Interactive Gambling Act 2001 prohibits the supply of interactive gambling services to customers in Australia, except for online betting which is permitted if state or territories permit.
  • There are, however, restrictions on the type of betting which can be permitted under the legislation and which bans in-play (or live) sports betting to Australian consumers via the internet, but which permits this same activity through telephone or land-based betting.
  • The Interactive Gambling Act (IGA) also allows in-play betting via the internet for horse and greyhound racing, whilst Australian residents can place in-play bets with online betting operators based outside of Australia, creating further inconsistencies with the law.
  •  A review of the State of Victoria’s betting legislation in 2011 determined that: “There was widespread agreement amongst all stakeholders that the ban on internet betting ‘in the run’ contained in the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 serves no useful purpose.”
  •  It “was also put to the review that, in some cases, in the run betting was to be preferred. Certain betting markets may be better served from an integrity perspective if they can only be bet on during the game, as this would avoid the possibility of pre-game collusion.”
  •  National sports have supported the provision of online in-play betting stating: “This form of betting is being driven offshore by the current prohibition. Australian sports and regulators have no access to suspicious betting data and have no means of tracking illegal activity.”
  •  A Government review of the IGA in 2013 again noted that the majority of online in-play wagering is conducted on the final outcome of an event, rather than on contingencies within the event (e.g. who will score the first goal) and that the public policy case for banning such betting, “especially if this form of gambling is driven off-shore, has not been established.”
  • Moves to ban regulated in-play (or live) betting are borne of little supporting evidence and it is of questionable positive integrity impact given the limitations of any national level approach in a fragmented global market of differing regulatory models.

This ESSA response came after Australia’s federal government confirmed that online in-play betting on live sports events is to remain illegal in the country, with plans in place to close loopholes that currently allow bookmakers to offer such services to punters.

The 2001 Interactive Gambling Act (IGA) states that online operators cannot offer live betting. Yet some brands, including William Hill and Paddy Power, have been able to bypass the system with a loophole which enables punters to click a button and confirm a wager via an automated phone call.

It has been estimated that Australians lost $400 million betting in this illegal industry in 2014, a figure which is expected to increase to $910 million by 2020. A further $100 million is also going offshore annually in lost tax revenue and product fees.

Alan Tudge, Social Services Minister, said that the government plans to introduce a national self-exclusion register, a voluntary pre-commitment scheme, better information for individuals about their gambling spend and a ban on online wagering companies offering lines of credit:

“Many Australians love to gamble, but we want to make sure there are sensible protections in place. The online environment has the potential for people to get themselves into serious trouble.

“We expect online wagering providers to meet community expectations. The tougher laws will seriously disrupt the illegal offshore providers from acting unscrupulously or targeting vulnerable Australians.”

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