4/11/10 – Using the now well known .net advertising strategy to get around domestic anti-online gambling laws in Australia, Full Tilt Poker is set to do some productive advertising in the sports market, according to widespread reports in local media.
The reports concern an alleged email circulating around National Rugby League clubs advising managements that the League is considering promoting Full Tilt Poker through a .net site. Full Tilt Poker is an offshore company, and the .net site is in compliance with Australian law, because it does not itself carry real money gambling services.
However, as the media have been quick to point out, the site serves as an information conduit promoting Full Tilt and showing Aussie gamblers where to go on the Internet should they have a yen to play some serious online poker against global opponents.
The NRL apparently sent the email at the end of March, suggesting to its clubs that Full Tilt Poker.net could become an advertiser with the NRL, with each of the league's 16 clubs sharing in a A$100 000 windfall by advertising Full Tilt Poker.net on their websites.
“At this stage, they are looking at a long-term involvement (6-12 months) with an investment of over 100k, incorporating display advertising and brand integration into the content of the sites,” wrote NRL official Damien Mahoney of the offer. “However, as this is new territory for the network and a potentially sensitive area, we have proposed that a smaller display campaign be trialed over the next few months. The advertising will only promote their ‘practice' site where no money changes hands.
"The NRL has already approved a sponsorship from the same company, who currently have a partnership with the Sydney Roosters."
Approached by the Sydney Morning Herald, Roosters chief executive Steve Noyce revealed that the federal government has asked his club to explain its A$75 000 sponsorship arrangement with Full Tilt Poker.net.
"The act is nine years old and there's been a lot of changes in the area of interactive technology during that time," Noyce told the newspaper. "We will obviously look at the areas we've been asked to look at."
It appears that Pokerstars is also active in the Aussie market, again using the .net tactic in a shirt logo sponsorship with the Cronulla club, according to media reports.
Any company convicted of providing online gambling services in Australia can be fined A$1.1 million for each day it operates.
The Australian government, working through the Productivity Commission, is currently studying the gambling industry, including the offshore Internet element.
The Commission issued a report late last year that estimated that Australians gamble as much as A$790 million every year on offshore Internet betting websites – three times more than that spent locally on sports bets and almost half that wagered on domestic horse racing.
The Commission has made the suggestion that it may be more productive to regulate and licence online gambling in Australia instead of trying to prevent it.
Sydney legal expert Jamie Nettleton explained to the SMH why the .net tactic is not illegal. "What is being promoted is a free play site against a cash play site," he said. "That means if you go to a free play site you play poker but don't pay for the privilege; you can't lose money. I assume that the club has taken legal advice and have taken the view if the federal authorities believe it's a problem they have a strong argument [that] it does not amount to a breach of the law.
"There's also an argument online poker is treated differently from other forms of online gambling services like online blackjack, which is clearly prohibited."
So far the Full Tilt Poker (.net) proposal has received a mixed reception. The Wests Tigers club rejected it but refused to comment further. However, as the SMH reports, the club already has a A$100 000 a year sponsorship deal going with the Australian regulated division of Betfair.