Tabcorp Chief Launches Another Attack On Internet Bookies

They have a tax advantage and don't contribute to the racing industry, says Attenborough

The head of the Australian online and land betting group Tabcorp has launched another attack on the internet bookmakers who represent an increasingly powerful competitive challenge for his company, claiming that they pay little tax, make only small contributions to the racing industry and rely on extending credit to their betting customers.

Speaking at the Asian Racing Conference in Hong Kong on Tuesday, Attenborough said online bookies were taking advantage of a "fundamentally uneven playing field" and threatened the sustainability of the racing industry.

Attenborough claimed that Tabcorp took in about A$9 billion in bets in Victoria and NSW in 2013 and returned about $657 million to the racing industry – a proportion of about 7 percent. In the same period online bookmakers returned about 2 per cent of the $5 billion they received in bets.

He added that Tabcorp contributed $225 million in taxes to NSW and Victoria, whereas in the Northern Territory, where bookmakers each have a cap of $250,000 in wagering tax, the territory only collected $2.5 million.

The Age newspaper reports that Racing Victoria is considering an increase in the fees paid by bookmakers to boost its falling revenues. Bookmakers pay 1.5 percent of turnover on racing, with the fee increased to 2 percent for premium races like the Melbourne Cup and Cox Plate.

One proposal has the fee rising to at least 2 percent for most races and 2.5 percent to 3 percent for the premium events. Another proposal could even be a return to charging fees based on gross revenue, or profit, rather than flat turnover.

Chris Downy, who represents online bookmakers like Sportsbet and Bet365 as chief executive of the Australian Wagering Council, was not sympathetic to Attenborough's speech, The Age notes.

He said that Tabcorp's larger tax contribution was a consequence of being the monopoly retail operator in NSW and Victoria. Although turnover at retail outlets is declining, in 2012-13 it still represented about $6.8 billion of bets for Tabcorp.

"Tabcorp currently has a 44 percent market share in Australia, largely on the back of the monopolies it enjoys for retail wagering in Victoria and NSW," Downy said, accusing the betting giant of being hypocritical, given its online venture Luxbet, which has annual turnover of about $700 million, and also takes advantage of the NT's regulatory regime.

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