Australia in the News — Weekly Round-up for September 15, 2017

More Restrictions On Online Gambling In Australia

State and federal ministers agree to ban free bets and inducements

The Australian newspaper Herald Sun reports that Australian provincial and federal ministers agreed Friday to stop bookmaking operators from offering free bets and other inducements to gamble in a renewed effort to mitigate the incidence of problem gambling.

The landmark agreement is intended to stop bookies such as Sportsbet, William Hill and Crownbet giving bonuses to punters who open new ­accounts or refer their friends.

The proposals include provision to ensure that winnings from any bonus bets must be able to be withdrawn without any conditions attached, and a requirement that all punters must now “opt in” to receive communications detailing promotional deals and offers.

Federal Human Services Minister Alan Tudge said in a statement:

“Many Australians enjoy a punt, but we want to ensure there are reasonable protections in place and that individuals have greater control over their gambling expenditure.

“Online gambling is growing faster than any other form … the gambling problems of the future will all come from the online space if we don’t put sensible protections in place now.”

The Friday meeting also saw provincial and federal ministers agree on strict new standards to give punters easy access to account closure information on online betting platforms.

Timelines and rules were also formulated to support a series of other gambling reforms agreed upon earlier this year.

Among these is a centralised national self-exclusion register where punters can block themselves from betting with all bookmakers on their phones, computers and tablets, which will be operational by the end of 2018. The gambling industry will be expected to fund the register and its wide promotion, and will be required to return positive balances in active accounts of those who self-exclude.

The ministers agreed to implement a voluntary precommitment scheme for online betting by June 2018, allowing gamblers to set binding deposit limits. Again, operators will be expected to publicise the project and prompt new gamblers on registration to set limits on their gambling accounts.

The trade body Responsible Wagering Australia says it welcomes the reforms, which help protect vulnerable gamblers.

Australian Province To Impose Point-Of-Consumption Tax On Operators

Western Australian 15 percent additional tax will impact online bookies when implemented in January 2019

Following the July 2017 lead of the South Australian government, Western Australia has announced a 15 percent point-of-consumption tax on online bookmakers which will be introduced from January 1 2017.

The Australian newspaper reports that the trade body Responsible Wagering Australia is disappointed by the move, given that the WA government had agreed to participate in the federal Government’s national wagering tax plan.

The new tax means that online operators will be paying an effective tax rate of more than 40 percent on revenue from customers in WA, making the state among the highest gambling tax jurisdictions in the world.

The RWA claims that the WA decision to impose the new tax jeopardises the achievement of a nationally harmonised tax and consumer protection regime in Australia.

RWA executive director Stephen Conroy warned that the WA decision will force operators to pass the tax cost on to punters, resulting in lower returns to the WA racing industry.

Paul Papalia, WA’s racing and gaming minister, shrugged off the warning, arguing that the p.o.c. tax will be informed by the national tax discussions. He said that the tax would be introduced
from January 1, 2019, and would replace the current tax framework and apply to all forms of wagering, including fixed odds and totalisator for racing and sports.

He defended the WA government’s action, saying that the provincial government retained the flexibility to adopt relevant national harmonisation elements, as agreed by the Council on Federal Financial Relations.

South Australia’s p.o.c.tax of 15 percent of GGR is applied to gambling companies earning more than A$150,000 a year from South Australian punters. The Victoria state government is also considering a similar tax move after discussions last year between the various provinces and the federal government on a national conversion to a p.o.c. tax formula (see previous InfoPowa reports).

Tatts Takes Aim At Lottoland

With Lottoland’s Gotta Go! PR Campaign

Australian online betting company Tatts Group has launched an integrated public relations campaign to push Lottoland, and other companies operating a similar model, out of the Australian market.

Tatts involvement and its new campaign are long overdue, the Australian Lotteries and Newsagents Association (ALNA) opined in a statement to its members on Monday.

ALNA has been lobbying at a state and federal government level for over a year to ban “fake lotto betting’ by companies like Lottoland”, saying they create an uneven playing field for lottery business.

“Whilst you are restricted in the way you conduct your lottery business and bound to a range of state regulations, the fake lottery – wagering model has freedoms and margins that are unavailable to you so it can out advertise regulated state lotteries.”

ALNA assured its 4000+ retail lottery members it had secured legal protection from the Tatts Group indemnifying them and itself from any legal action that may follow participation in the campaign.

The campaign includes bold in-store point of sale material, Social media initiatives and letters to politicians.

Licensed as a remote bookmaker by Australia’s Northern Territory Government, Lottoland Australia released a statement in response to the campaign saying:

“It is very flattering that in just a few years we have created a business that is well-liked by over 6 million customers and is also on the radar of large gambling companies who insist on trying to undermine what we are doing.”

The statement goes on to dispel Tatts campaign claims point by point, including the spectre of cannabilisation of traditional lottery offerings and tax evasion.

Predictably the company said it does not see itself as direct competition to existing lottery providers but rather as attracting a new customer group.

“In any developed economy innovation, entrepreneurship and consumer choice should be encouraged and not hindered. Indeed, Lottoland’s half million registered customers would agree.”

Could Online Poker Be Back On The Cards In Australia?

Supporter Sen. David Leyonhjelm says the federal government is mulling the exemption of online poker from recent bans

Sen. David Leyonhjelm, one of the few Australian politicians to have consistently defended online gambling in general and online poker in particular, announced a new development in the federal government’s approach Wednesday, claiming that Communications Minister Mitch Fifield is considering making it possible to licence online poker operators, thus exempting them from the current bans on all but sports betting that exist following the recent passage of the Interactive Gambling Amendment Act (see previous InfoPowa reports).

The senator claims that as a result of further lobbying, the government “has advised that it is ‘favourably disposed’ to reforms that would exempt online poker players from illegal offshore wagering laws.”

Leyonhjelm quoted from a letter from Fifield, advising that a team in the Communications Ministry has been tasked to “undertake some preliminary work examining the feasibility of Australian onshore providers obtaining licenses to operate online poker.”

Note the “onshore provider” qualification.

Fifield claims that he has the support of Human Services Minister Alan Tudge, who was the driving force behind the passage of the Interactive Gambling Amendment Act.

Sen. Leyonhjelm is also largely responsible for the inception of a Senate committee deliberating the pros and cons of online poker, which is due to submit its report and recommendations in October

There is as yet insufficient information to indicate whether a more liberal approach to Australian online poker might include shared player liquidity on an international scale; whether licenses will be reserved for the presently licensed and resident Aussie online gambling providers, or at the very least locally-based companies.

Aspire Global Exits Aussie Market

Following approval of amendments to gaming legislation

Aspire Global has announced its withdrawal from the Australian market in light of the approved amendments to the Australian Gaming Act (see previous Infopowa reports).

Australian business accounted for 8 percent of the the company’s total revenue in the second quarter.

“We regret having to leave a market, however, we expect to compensate for the lost business through intensified efforts in other regions. Consequently, we don’t expect this to affect our long-term financial targets,” Tsachi Maimon, chief executive officer of Aspire Global commented.