Monday August 12,2013 : AUSTRALIA A GOOD BET FOR INTERNATIONAL OPERATORS
Improving economy, keen punters, proximity to Asia and good communications infrastructure all work Downunder
Australian media widely discussed the pros and cons of the William Hill acquisition of Aussie online bookie Tom Waterhouse.com in mainly op-ed pieces over the weekend, and the impact the deal will have on the future of online gambling Downunder.
Several commentators noted that, for a variety of reasons, Australia presents a tempting opportunity for the increasingly global activity and expansion of major foreign gambling groups like Will Hill and Paddy Power, which have both snapped up large chunks of Australia's domestic online gambling market.
They pointed to an improving economy, keen punters, proximity to Asia as a platform for future ambitions and good communications and financial infrastructure Downunder, although some hedged that view, moderating it with the hostile position of Australian politicians, concerns over problem gambling possibilities and the lack of real progress so far in developing the considerable Australian online and mobile gambling capability to its full potential.
Tom Waterhouse's high television and public profile was, some writers thought, a conscious effort to make his already impressive Australian company more desirable for just such a situation as a foreign company looking to expand its Aussie operations.
Waterhouse is being retained as a senior executive by William Hill, and the consensus appears to be that the company will benefit substantially from being part of an increasingly global online gambling firm with the resources to accomplish major objectives internationally.
William Hill's acquisition of Sportingbet Australia and its subsidiary Centrebet, along with Waterhouse, gives the British company an estimated 25 percent share of the Australian bookmaking market, just ahead of the 20 percent claimed by UK rival Paddy Power, which acquired 20 percent of the market through its purchase of Sportsbet.
Mostly local Aussie companies share the rest, with major monopolies claiming the lion's share.
Online competition could develop from the land gambling sector, where New South Wales land operators have indicated a desire to offer online gambling subject to the state putting the right sort of licensing and regulatory requirements in place. The clubs already command pokie revenues around A$5 billion annually and constitute a formidable competitor.
Land pokie machines still constitute the biggest annual revenue generators across Australian gambling at A$10 billion.
If Australian state and federal politicians eventually permit full-on internet casino gambling, the desirability of the Land of Oz as a home for global operators would be further enhanced, many commentators feel.
The suggested course at present is to trial online poker and see how that develops.
One major reservation about the expansion of online gambling remains, however. Most observers agree that there is genuine concern over the potential for the creation of problem gamblers – especially among the younger punters – that the easy accessibility of online gambling may provide.
There is clearly a need for more media education on this topic, judging by unsubstantiated and undetailed claims currently being made that young players are generating far more problem gamblers than the average, allegedly (according to one publication) up to ten times that of the general Australian population.
Evidence within the industry is available that may help contradict that, and perhaps needs to be mobilised to present a balanced picture.
There are differing opinions in Australia as to where the country is headed in terms of online gambling; some appear to believe that political and conservative action groups will continue to strangle real development, whilst perhaps more take the optimistic view that increased pressure on the political establishment will produce a more energetic and progressive approach, albeit with a heavy emphasis on consumer protection and anti-problem gambling measures.