Australia’s federal government has said that online in-play betting on live sports events is to remain illegal in the country, with plans in place to close loopholes that currently allow bookmakers to offer such services to punters.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, the government is also now keen to introduce ‘disruption’ tactics to stop Australian nationals from gambling with illegal offshore operators.
While the government stopped short of saying it will block unlicensed sites, the strategy will include naming and shaming sites and their operators, as well as working with banks and credit cards in the country to stop payments.
The decision comes after Social Services Minister Alan Tudge today (Thursday) released a much-anticipated review of illegal offshore gambling by former New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell.
Australia currently operates under the 2001 Interactive Gambling Act (IGA), which states that while bets on live games can be taken at retail outlets or over the phone, operators cannot offer such services online.
However, some brands are bypassing the system with a loophole by which they use voice-over-internet protocol (VOIP) technology to operate systems that allow punters to place bets by clicking a button and confirming the wager with an automated phone call.
William Hill and Paddy Power Betfair-owned Sportsbet are amongst a number of major operators that currently offer such a service in the country.
However, Tudge has said that the government now plans to introduce legislation that will block this loophole and has urged bookmakers to cease offering online in-play betting.
“We are of the view that they have been in breach of the intent of the law, if not the actual law,” Tudge said.
“We do not intend to further expand the online betting market.”
Australian operator Tabcorp has welcomed the decision, with its chief executive David Attenborough stating that the company will continue to work with the government on creating a national wagering regulatory framework.
Attenborough said: “Online betting on live sport is an illegal form of wagering in Australia; it is pleasing that the government has removed any doubt about its legality, addressing the activity of those wagering operators who have been circumventing the law.
“Tabcorp also supports measures which crack down on unlicensed offshore operators; their activities pose a threat to racing and sports integrity, deprive our governments and racing industries of income and disregard consumer protection.
“Tabcorp will continue to work with the Government in the creation of a national wagering regulatory framework.
“Areas such as consumer protection and the growth in advertising, as well as wagering taxation, need a national approach.”
However, Ian Fletcher, chief executive of the Australian Wagering Council, which represents various online brands including William Hill and Sportsbet, criticised the decision to retain what he described as an ‘archaic’ ban on online in-play betting, adding that the government will miss out on millions in tax.
Fletcher said: “Perhaps the gravest omission, and the real missed opportunity, is the apparent abandonment of Australian sport and sports integrity.
“Australians will continue to use the power and freedom the internet gives them to make choices about what they bet on – racing or sport, domestic or international events – when they bet – pre-match or in-play – and how they bet – in person, on the phone, or via the internet.”
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