Australian Gambling Industry in the News — Weekly Round-up for December 08, 2017

Another Challenge To Tabcorp-Tatts Merger Falls (Update)

ACCC advises it will not further contest the initiative

Close on the heels of this week’s deal in which CrownBet agreed not to oppose the proposed A$11 billion Tabcorp-Tatts merger (see previous InfoPowa report) comes the news that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has announced that it will not further hamper the initiative.

In a statement Friday the competitions authority commented that whilst it will not further challenge the merger, it continues to believe that it will impact industry competition within Australia’s gaming and betting markets.

The statement also acknowledges that there is “‘no error in law to which it can object” regarding the agreement between the two major Aussie online and land gambling giants.

“While the ACCC takes a different view from the Tribunal on the extent of the public benefits and detriments arising from the proposed merger, there is no avenue of appeal that would test the merits of the Tribunal’s decision,” chairman Rod Sims said in the ACCC statement Friday.

InfoPowa readers will recall that the ACCC challenged the merger after Tabcorp took the matter out of its hands and referred it to the friendlier Australian Competition Tribunal, which ultimately approved the deal. The ACCC then appealed the ACT approval, and a federal court referred the matter back to the ACT for review.

Last month the ACT re-approved the deal with a condition that Tabcorp sell off its Odyssey Gaming business, and the merger was back on track.

The ACCC’s notification that it will not further oppose the deal clears another obstacle to the controversial merger

Aussie Bookmakers Ramp Up Opposition To P.O.C. Tax

Online bookies argue that they already contribute to the national economy through wages, taxes, product fees they pay to sporting codes, and lucrative race-field fees paid to the state racing bodies

Last week the Australian province of Queensland became the third state to roll out its version of a 15 percent “point-of-consumption” tax for online gambling companies, and local media reports indicate that operators – most of whom are licensed in the Northern Territory – are reportedly ramping up their lobbying against the new tax, which may seriously impact profitability.

The bookmaking groups argue that they already contribute to the national economy through wages, taxes, product fees paid to sporting codes, and lucrative race-field fees paid to the state racing bodies for the use of racing information.

South Australia is already busy implementing the new tax, which has been the subject of discussions between the various states and the federal government, and Western Australia is preparing to follow with a similar tax early next year.

State and federal treasurers claim that the new tax will help level the playing field with totalisator providers Tabcorp and Tatts who pay significantly higher taxes on their land activities.

Responsible Wagering Australia, a trade association representing online bookies like Sportsbet, CrownBet, Bet365, Betfair, Ladbrokes and Unibet, has criticised the Queensland decision, labelling it a “naked tax grab” imposed without consultation.

Earlier this year Credit Suisse noted that a similar point-of-consumption tax introduced in England did not reduce wagering revenue when it was implemented in 2014, but did cut industry profits.

Australian Gambling Giant Faces Class Action Over China Detentions (Update)

Claims that company management did not adequately brief shareholders on the risks involved in Chinese high roller initiative

Australian gambling giant Crown Resorts is facing a class action following a court filing by a local legal firm Monday, alleging that Crown management did not give shareholders enough information about the risks being taken in its marketing efforts in China aimed at gambling whales.

InfoPowa readers will recall that 18 employees, including Crown’s VIP gambling chief Jason O’Connor, were detained – some of them for 10 months – following a 2016 swoop by Beijing police. They were released in August this year after pleading guilty to various offences

The case adversely impacted Crown’s VIP revenues as the company pulled back from its Chinese initiative in the wake of the detentions.

On Monday Andrew Watson, the man in charge of class actions at legal firm Maurice Blackburn, said the class action was filed on behalf of hundreds of investors dismayed at the sharp share price drop of almost 14 percent in Resorts stock on October 17, 2016, when news of the arrests became public.

He said the arrests had also raised questions about Crown’s significant investment in a dedicated VIP casino developed in Sydney, and the wisdom of taking risks in China when the Chinese government had publicised its crackdown on corruption, gambling and related activity.

“Shareholders should have been appraised of the risks that Crown was taking in China and the threat they posed to the company’s revenue streams,” Watson told local media reporters.

“Chinese authorities could not have made the risks of marketing gambling any plainer to Crown or other casino operators, yet Crown ignored these warnings.

“Fortunately in Australia, companies can be held accountable via the class action mechanism, for breaching their legal obligations to make timely and accurate disclosures to the market. Those failures affect many, many people.”

A Crown stock exchange statement confirmed that the company has been served with the action.

“The proceeding has been filed on behalf of persons who acquired an interest in Crown shares between February 6 2015 and October 16 2016,” the statement revealed, adding that Crown will “vigorously” defend the allegations against it.

Live Sports Gambling Ban Submitted To Aussie Federal Parliament

Plans to become effective end March 2018

Long running speculation on the submission of a proposal to ban gambling advertising during live sports broadcasts in Australia have come home to roost with news that Minister of Communications and the Arts, Mitch Fifield, tabled proposed legislation in the Federal Senate today (Wednesday).

Under the proposed law, gambling advertisements will be banned from five minutes before play until five minutes after play or 20h30, whichever comes first.

The wide ranging ban applies to commercial radio, online content services, SBS and commercial free-to-air television which, if promulgated, would come into effect from March 30 2018.

“The announced gambling restrictions will establish a clear safe zone during which parents and caregivers may have confidence that children will not be exposed to gambling promotions by viewing live sports,” Fifield said.