Sunday September 27,2015 : BETTING ADVERTS CATCH THE ATTENTION OF AUSSIE GAMBLING REGULATOR
New South Wales regulator warns Crownbet that it may be in breach of regulations on inducement.
Extensive gambling company advertising in Australia has attracted the attention of regulatory monitoring programs as companies in the A$21 billion a year Australian market vye for punters' attention.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported over the weekend that CrownBet is the latest company to come under inspection by the New South Wales regulator, the Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing.
The regulator has confirmed that it has warned CrownBet – an online sports book owned by the Packer land gambling group – that it may be in breach of regulations against offering inducements to gamble in its television advertisements, and for failing to exclude NSW residents.
The company has not commented on the matter.
The newspaper reports that CrownBet is not the only gambling firm under scrutiny by the OLGR, although the regulator has declined to elaborate further.
Quoting the Standard Media Index, the SMH claims that in this year to August A$149.1 million was spent on gambling advertisements, up from A104.5 million in the same period a year ago and more than double the A$68.7 million spent in 2012, with most of it going into television adverts and digital publications.
From the regulator's statements, it appears that offering inducements to gamble includes sign-up bonuses, although most major sports betting companies generally exclude NSW, Victorian, West Australian and South Australian residents from such offers to stay within the law.
Anti-gambling groups have been agitating for regulatory action, claiming that gambling company advertisements are predatory, place consumers at risk, and condition young people into a mind-set where gambling is normal and acceptable.
The widespread availability of mobile devices has resulted in a shift towards this channel for punters, and increased competition among gambling groups for business, but Matthew Tripp, who runs CrownBet, told the Sydney Morning Herald that although advertising expenditure can give the perception of a booming market, that is not quite the case.
"The awareness is heightened but certainly the gambling dollar hasn't gone through the roof," Tripp said. "The online market as a whole is growing at a rate of between 10 percent to 15 percent year-on-year but the overall sector is tracking in line with the economy."
"Everything has a tipping point and I think we are just about to reach ours in the online wagering space," he added. "You can certainly over-saturate in the market and I think you'll find some of the European operators are certainly doing that. You need to pick that market and turn the dial up or down in line with consumer sentiment."
Tripp's strategy is to focus on loyalty and client retention, commenting that competitors' instant reward and credit offers were very "homogenous" and “a race to the bottom.”
The SMH notes that the federal government has commissioned a review of the 2001 Interactive Gaming Act chaired by former NSW premier Barry O'Farrell (see previous InfoPowa reports), and that in 2013 the Department of Communications report on the Act called for industry to establish an advertising code of conduct to ensure advertising is not contrary to community standards and expectations.
The Australian Wagering Council, a trade body representing online sports betting and wagering in Australia, has thrown its support behind the recommendation and says it is committed to working with industry, regulators and the wider community to achieve this.
A spokesperson for the Council took the opportunity to remind the public that a recent report from Gambling Research Australia conceded that it is not possible to determine whether there is a causal relationship between problem gambling and exposure to gambling advertising in general.
The spokesperson also pointed out that each state and territory has its own regulatory position on inducements, and that AWC members comply with these.
Independent MP Andrew Wilkie claimed that the increase in sports betting is a serious cause for concern, observing:
"People are especially sick of wall-to-wall gambling advertising, particularly during G-rated television periods. Moreover the problem is only getting worse with the advertising spending going up and the amount being wagered increasing dramatically."
The politician was involved in a parliamentary committee that examined sports betting two years ago and submitted recommendations, which he says successive governments have done nothing about.
These included the restriction of gambling advertising. He was critical of the terms of reference of the forthcoming review of the IGA, claiming: "….three of the four terms of reference are only to do with protecting Australian online gambling businesses from their overseas competitors."