Online betting on live sport will be banned until at least the federal election and unlicensed foreign bookmakers barred from taking bets from Australians under reforms to be announced by the government last week.
In a bid to regulate the rapidly growing $3 billion a year sports betting industry, the reforms are expected to bring an end to online bookmakers’ ability to offer punters credit.
Some of the world’s biggest gambling operators, many headquartered in the UK like William Hill, Ladbrokes and Bet365 , have openly flouted an existing government ban on in-play betting by exploiting a loophole to offer instant online wagers on live sporting events through their phone apps and websites.
Several international players have also aggressively spruiked lines of credit to online customers which the government hopes to ban by working with states and territories.
The practice is banned in Australia over the internet but allowed via telephone calls or in a retail outlet, and the Tom Waterhouse-led William Hill has controversially offered the service to its customers via its “click-to-call” function, where a voice call is made online.
Traditional operators Tatts, Tabcorp as well as pubs, clubs and the racing industry will be encouraged by the short-term ban on in-play betting but are keen to see it made permanent.
“The decision to maintain the prohibition of ‘online in play’ gambling will be welcomed by the vast majority of Australians,” said Australian Hotels Association chief executive Stephen Ferguson. “The foreign-owned corporate bookmakers should cease the practice immediately.”
If the government’s measures work, revenue would flow back to the licensed Australian players, including Tabcorp and Tatts, which are paying more than $1bn a year in state wagering taxes and product fees while their online rivals are exempt from wagering taxes and pay tens of millions in product fees.
Creating a national consumer protection framework is expected to involve working with the states to establish uniform regulations and working with bookmakers to make sure an industry-wide self-exclusion system can truly block a customer from accessing the full range of licenced betting sites in Australia.
Along with ruling out or reducing credit betting, currently offered by the many overseas and Northern Territory licensed bookmakers, the consumer protection framework is also expected to eventually harmonise laws on bonuses and inducements.
Amid a pitched battle for market share, online bookmakers offer a range of bonus bets, promotional give aways and other inducements.
Because state laws on this are inconsistent, many of these giveaways are legal in some states but not others, meaning companies must exclude some punters and not others from accessing these bonuses.
The government has not yet revealed the full O’Farrell review findings but it will do so later this month when the policy is released.