The AU$3.7m figure comprises an infringement notice of AU$2.5m – a record sum – and the operator committing to refunding customers AU$1.2m.
The settlement was agreed following an investigation by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), which found that Sportsbet sent more than 150,000 marketing text messages and emails to over 37,000 consumers who had tried to unsubscribe.
Sportsbet was also found to have sent over 3,000 marketing texts that had no unsubscribe function available to consumers.
The texts and emails, sent between January 2020 and March 2021, offered either incentives to consumers to place bets or contained alerts about upcoming horse races.
ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said both the scale and duration of Sportsbet’s conduct was concerning, particularly given the potential harms involved with gambling, and as such warranted the record penalty.
“We received complaints from people stating they were experiencing gambling-related problems and were trying to manage the issue by unsubscribing from Sportsbet’s promotions,” O’Loughlin explained.
“Sportsbet’s failures in this matter had the real potential to contribute to financial and emotional harm to these people and their families.”
The ACMA also accepted a three-year, court-enforceable undertaking from Sportsbet, under which the operator will be appointed an independent arbiter to oversee a wide-scale compensation program to refund customers who lost money on bets made associated with the spam. This, ACMA said, is expected to total approximately $1.2m.
Sportsbet will also need to appoint an independent consultant to review its procedures, policies, training and systems, as well as implement recommendations made as a result the audit.
“The ACMA contacted Sportsbet on several occasions leading up to the investigation to let the gambling provider know it may have compliance problems and it failed to take adequate action,” O’Loughlin said.
“Sportsbet is a large and sophisticated company which should have robust systems in place to comply with spam laws and protect the interests of its customers. We will be actively monitoring Sportsbet’s compliance and the commitments it has made to the ACMA.”
The record penalty notice means that over the past 18 months, businesses have paid nearly $3.4m in infringement notices issued by ACMA, for breaking spam and telemarketing laws
ACMA also accepted 13 court-enforceable undertakings during the same period and issued seven formal warnings to businesses.
The news comes after Sportsbet in November last year was also fined $135,000 by Liquor and Gaming New South Wales for showing advertisements with an inducement to bet and marketing to players who had opted out of receiving email communications.
The operator sent multiple emails from October 2020 to March 2021 to customers who had withdrawn consent to receive direct marketing.