Australia takes no in-play prisoners
Australia takes no in-play prisoners
The so-called click-to-call operations which to date have fulfilled the function of producing a near-enough in-play option for Australian online punters is almost certainly on its last legs after the key licensing jurisdiction of Northern Territories issued its second warning for operators to stop the practice.
Ladbrokes Australia, William Hill, bet365 and Sportsbet (owned by Paddy Power Betfair) have been skirting around the spirit (if not the absolute letter) of the regulations around in-play betting by offering telephone services which mimic the in-play betting found in other markets.
However, the Northern Territories Racing Commission last week once again asked its operators to stop offering click-to-call services ahead of a full ban that will come into force in September. The Australian newspaper said this past weekend that the new measures would “prohibit sports bookmakers from offering click-to-call type functionality, where such functionality uses recorded or synthetic voices”.
It brings to an end a brief period of innovation in the Australian sports-betting market and is a further signal of tougher times ahead for gambling operators of all shades in the market following the recent general election.
Although Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberal Party retained power in the July poll, he will be sustained in power anti-gambling independent senator Nick Xenophon alongside a handful of other independent senators.
The change of tone from the federal government was signalled in a statement released in response to the Northern Territories’ latest warning where minister for human services Alan Tudge said amendments to the Interactive Gambling Act would be a matter of priority for the government in its next session.
He added: “As part of the response to the O’Farrell Review, the government will also be working with the states to introduce significant consumer protections to combat problems caused by online gambling.
“This includes banning the provision of lines of credit and a national self-exclusion register. This will be the biggest package of consumer protections ever introduced by a federal government.”
Finally, he warned that directors of what the Australian authorities considered illegal gambling operations would be placed on movement alert lists.
According to recent comments from Ladbrokes chief executive Jim Mullen at the time of the company’s interim results in August, the click-to-call element of the business was worth between 6% and 7% of Ladbrokes Australia’s “overall business”, though he didn’t specify whether this was turnover or net gaming revenue.
Net revenues at Ladbrokes Australia rose 41.5% in the first half to £35.5m though operating profit fell 23% to £2.1m as the company continued to invest heavily in brand marketing.
Mullen admitted in August that though the business was on the up, “sometimes the story is obscured by the regulatory complexity and activity which crops up every so often”.
William Hill, meanwhile, said in its results that credit betting – which as Tudge mentions in his statement is also under threat – is currently worth circa 20% of its Australian revenues which totalled £47.7m for the six months to June. However, interim chief executive Philip Bowcock said at the time of the company’s interims that even if credit betting were banned, the company would be unlikely to see a 20% decline in revenues “because credit betting has been a way of life in Australia probably since betting started”.
He added: “So at the moment we are not actively doing anything; we are monitoring the situation very closely, and clearly there will be some lead-up time between when a decision is made and actual enactment.”
A William Hill spokesperson added today that the company continued to be engaged with the process.
Totally Gaming Says: Despite the huge demand for in-play betting in the country, and the fact that there has been no negative outcomes from online in-play in the UK, it seems the politicians have won this battle. The fact that the bookmakers were skirting around the regulations would not have endeared them to regulators not wanting to lose face with the consumer when it is batting offshore operators.