Friday, April 29,2016 : REACTIONS TO O'FARRELL REPORT ON ONLINE GAMBLING CONTINUE TO BUILD
Industry observers study former politician’s review and recommendations.
The release Thursday of the O'Farrell review of the Australian Interactive Gaming Act – and its recommendations that in-play betting be curtailed and stricter enforcement actions against offshore online betting firms be implemented – continued to generate comment from the media and interested parties Friday.
The review, completed mid-December last year but held for study by the federal government, can be accessed in full here:
The Australian Hotels Association was among the first to voice support for the review and its recommendations, with CEO Stephen Ferguson applauding the suggested ban on online in-play betting on sports and credit betting, opining that the recommendations create a level playing field for both online and retail sectors in Australian gambling.
“Importantly, the Government recognised the need for consumer protections for online gambling and the need to strengthen existing laws against illegal operators," he observed, adding that the "vast majority" of Australians would welcome the in-play betting ban and calling on "foreign-owned corporate bookmakers" to cease offering in-play betting immediately.
Home-grown Aussie gambling group Tabcorp's chief executive David Attenborough agreed, welcoming the news that the government is to crack down on unlicensed offshore operators, whom he claimed "…pose a threat to racing and sports integrity, deprive our governments and racing industries of income and disregard consumer protection."
“The Government has addressed a number of areas to provide better protection for consumers and the community and to start creating a more level playing field for wagering operators in Australia," he said, pledging to work with the government on another O'Farrell recommendation – the creation of a national regulatory framework.
Tatts CEO Robbie Cooke also weighed in, praising the government for “not bowing to the extreme pressure” from multinational corporate bookmakers.
By Friday, there was no sign that in-play betting had been discontinued by betting firms in the wake of the release of the review or comments by federal government ministers supporting the recommendations.
On Thursday Human Services Minister Alan Tudge said he hoped the corporates would immediately cease offering in-play action because the government had clearly indicated that it believed they are operating against "…the intent of the law, if not the actual law.’’
Tudge has indicated that the federal government intends to legislate the ban on in-play betting, along with a ban on credit betting and the introduction of a self-exclusion scheme and loss limits.
He said that measures to ban offshore bookmakers offering bets to Australia will also be introduced, backed by fines and travel restrictions and possibly internet service provider and payment blocking.
However the always outspoken CEO of Sportsbet (a Paddy Power subsidiary), Cormac Barry, described the in-play recommendation in particular as "misguided".
For good measure he also took a poke at the Aussie gambling establishment [read Tabcorp and Tatts], characterising the proposed government measures as a victory for “lazy, old-fashioned monopoly” operators, and predicting that moves to block offshore operators would fail.
And Ian Fletcher, who heads the Australian Wagering Council, a trade association representing major corporate bookmakers, said the real missed opportunity was “the apparent abandonment of Australian sport and sports integrity”.
“Sports themselves made clear that they needed in-play wagering to be integrated into the onshore, regulated world,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, political observers have noted that the in-play betting ban will likely only be legislated and implemented after the expected national elections on July 2 this year…until then the status quo could prevail, some opined.
With such a sweeping range of recommendations, the O'Farrell review is likely to generate a lot more comment in the days ahead, especially controversial suggestions that:
* There be national standards for gambling advertising and publicity that will also embrace social media activity;
* That the Australian Communications and Media Authority be empowered to discuss internet blocking measures with ISPs, and failing success that government should consider legislating for the possibility;
* There is also a suggestion that the ACMA should consider civil litigation against operators, and warn their licensing jurisdictions about their illegal activities in Australia;
* The possible extension of online gambling enforcement measures to include agents and affiliate marketers;
* That the federal government should work with Aussie banks and credit card companies to develop tactics that will disrupt financial transactions between Aussie punters and offshore operators;
* A suggestion that enforcement measures might include "naming and shaming" [read blacklisting] companies operating illegally in Australia, including the individuals behind such companies, and the possibility of travel restrictions on such persons