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Australia Makes In-Play Betting Illegal 07/05/2016
• Opportunity missed say Bookmakers

In-play betting is to be outlawed in Australia after the federal government chose to accept virtually all the recommendations of the the Illegal Offshore Wagering Review into the online industry.

The findings of the investigation conducted last year by former New South Wales premier Barry O’Farrell were today (Thursday) released, with the government also set to establish a national self-exclusion register for problem gamblers and ban bookmakers from offering punters lines of credit.

However, the most contentious issue was O’Farrell’s recommendation that a loophole which allows operators to offer ‘click to call’ in-play betting should be closed. While live betting is illegal via online platforms, it is allowed over the telephone and companies such as Ladbrokes, Sportsbet and William Hill each offer punters the chance to gamble through their websites as long as a microphone is enabled, thus fulfilling the ‘phonecall’ requirement.

The decision on in-play betting was welcomed by David Attenborough, chief executive off Tabcorp, which has long opposed its foreign rivals’ promotion of in-play betting.

“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,” 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's closest competitor, the Paddy Power Betfair-owned Sportsbet, condemned what it described as a short-sighted decision by the government which merely protected Tabcorp’s dominant position and would lead to punters simply visiting illegal offshore sites.

Sportsbet chief executive Cormac Barry said: "I think it’s a win for the lazy, traditional monopoly wagering operators in Australia who are more interested in protecting their monopoly than giving consumers what they want. It is a sad day for Australian consumers and I think the big winners today are the illegal offshore operators who will be able to continue to operate uninhibited."

Organisations such as ESSA and major sports codes including Cricket Australia told O’Farrell’s investigation that legal in-play betting would improve integrity in the sports betting market. However, the government today said it would not allow the practice, citing figures showing the rate of problem gambling is three times higher when wagering is conducted online.

Social Services Minister Alan Tudge said: "The government does not intend to further expand the online betting market in Australia by legalising online in-play betting, We think there's enough problems with gambling already, before giving people the ability to bet on every moment of every sport across Australia from your living room."

Ian Fletcher, of the Australian Wagering Council, which represents big corporate bookies, 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.

Despite the move to ban in-play betting, it appears unlikely the legislation to close the loophole that allows live betting via telephone could be passed before the expected election on July 2.