Aussie Gambling Groups React To In-play Moratorium (update)

Some support the idea, but foreign-owned corporate bookies warn that it will drive mobile and online punters to offshore unlicensed sites

The Australian government's reported decision to suspend all in-play betting until after the general election has evoked very different reactions from traditional Aussie gambling groups like Tatts and Tabcorp, and the more aggressive foreign owned sports betting sites of companies like William Hill, Sportsbet and Bet365.
The Australian federal government is expected in April to formalise what have hitherto been leaked ministerial briefings on the 19 recommendations contained in the O'Farrell review of interactive gambling… and what the government intends to do on them.
The Australian Wagering Council, a trade association representing the interests of online bookmakers such as Sportsbet, William Hill, Betfair and Bet365, told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper that if the reports are correct, a moratorium constituted a backward step, given that punters are already widely using the in-play service, and arguing that a better course would be to accept the reality and clarify that the practice is legal.
"The simple truth is Australians will continue to bet in-play via the internet with unlicensed offshore providers until reform is achieved to allow Australian licensed and regulated wagering operators to offer the product," said Ian Fletcher, chief executive of the AWC.
He added: "The true threat to the integrity of racing and sports comes from illegal offshore operators, with whom Australian punters now choose to wager in their droves, due to the antiquated restrictions in accessing in-play betting online in Australia."
However, the Tabcorp group supported the government, opining that the moratorium decision was long overdue.
"Online betting on live sport is an illegal form of wagering in Australia, so we welcome removing the ambiguity that has surrounded the issue for some time," said Tabcorp's chief operating officer for wagering and media Craig Nugent.
"Banning credit betting and cracking down on unlicensed offshore operators will also create a more level playing field for wagering operators in Australia," he said.
Tatts Group challenged the view that Aussie punters would flock to unlicensed offshore operators, arguing that there is little evidence to suggest that punters have embraced the betting method by pouring money into illicit offshore websites.
Industry observers have speculated that if the government moves as has been predicted, the clampdown on in-play betting will probably boost Tabcorp and Tatts as they seek to protect their share of the market in an aggressively competitive digital environment.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Clubs Australia, the organisation representing Australia's 6,500 licensed clubs, lobbied against relaxing rules around in-play for fear the move for more punters to bet online could jeopardise revenues from its bricks and mortar venues.
Executive director Anthony Ball described the government's decision as "sensible" this week, adding:
"This is a logical decision and the one I think everyone expected. It surely wouldn't even surprise those who have been exploiting loopholes in order to offer in-play online betting against the spirit of the law up until now."

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