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Australian Sports, Racing and Gaming Industry News – January 15

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WELCOME back to our weekly column on news and announcements across the sports, racing and gaming industries. Within we focus on the changes in regulations, laws and the big decisions that can affect punters and everyone in the community. Stay up to date by coming back each week, with the column available on smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops.

This week, all eyes are on match-fixing and methods to uphold the integrity of Australian sports. Poker machine policies are also being reviewed in several states, while the online bookmaker industry gears up for more changes.

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Victorian police crack down on match-fixing and corruption

Victorian police have signed a Letter of Agreement with the European Sports Security Association (ESSA) to target suspicious betting activity and match-fixing. Under the terms of the world-first agreement, police will receive alerts from the ESSA when sporting events recieve suspicious betting activity. The agreement is active for all 2018 sporting events in Victoria, such as the Australian Open. The real-time alerts allow the police to act quickly, given sporting federations and gambling regulators used to send out the information, which was sometimes a slow process.

The announcement follows reports that a match-fixing threat to the Australian Open has been contained after widespread allegations dating back to the early 2000s left a cloud over the event. Due to the increased number of resources, Tennis Australia has reportedly been able to reduce the number of corruption alerts, strengthening the integrity of the game.

Australian sports fight gambling advertising restrictions

The group responsible for Australia’s sporting codes, like the NRL, AFL and Cricket Australia, is fighting the proposed gambling restrictions expected to come into play in March. Last year, the Turnbull government announced new media reforms, including a restriction on gambling ads on media platforms like TV and radio to reduce exposure to children. The reforms include a ban on gambling promotions during all live sporting events, five minutes before and after the game between the hours of 5 am and 8:30 pm. The ban excludes horse and greyhound racing advertising.

While corporate bookmakers have welcomed the ban, the Coalition for Major Professional and Participation Sports is arguing that banning ads will impact media rights. Free TV and Commercial Radio Australia released draft provisions of a new code featuring exemptions to the ban, allowing the broadcast of gambling ads during long sports events, such as the Rugby World Cup and the tennis. Although anti-gambling campaigners have slammed the “watered down” codes, the Coalition has thrown its support behind the exemptions, which has led to the government threatening to introduce legislation to achieve their goals.

Sportsbet’s new CEO gears up for tough year

Online betting site, Sportsbet, has announced a new CEO after Cormac Barry revealed he was leaving to take a senior position with the Dublin-based company, CarTrawler. Current chief marketing executive, Barni Evans will replace Barry, who had been a key piece in increasing the bookmaker’s customer base from 120,000 to more than one million punters in the last 17 years. Barry’s departure comes as Sportsbet’s international parent company, Paddy Power Betfair, announced Peter Jackson as the new CEO. The two will work together, with the upcoming regulatory changes for Australia’s online bookmaker industry, including a ban on sign-up bonuses and gambling advertising restrictions, set to make it a tough year for Evans.

Canberra club fights problem gambling fine

A Canberra RSL club will appeal a $120,000 fine on Monday, January 15, brought by the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission for breaching responsible gambling laws. The Raiders club came under fire after problem gambler, Laurie Brown, complained that staff failed to intervene or even record that she exhibited problem gambling signs. All clubs in the state are required to record anyone showing signs of problem gambling, like withdrawing large sums at ATMs or playing for long periods of time without breaks. Brown lost $226,050 over 18 months on poker machines at the club and said no one stepped in when she withdrew thousands of dollars using the cash out option via their EFTPOS machines. The Raiders will fight the fine in court, with the club’s general manager, Simon Hawkins, stating that she showed no signs of problem gambling that required staff to intervene.

Poker machine debate heats up

The poker machine debate in Tasmania is heating up, with the policy to phase out pokies from pubs and clubs by 2023 creating a division in the state. At the end of last year, the Tasmanian Labor Party announced plans to introduce a policy phasing out the machines from pubs and clubs, with support for venues choosing to remove them earlier. The policy will come into effect if the Labor Party wins the 2018 state election. While anti-gambling campaigners have commended the reforms, pubs and clubs are lobbying against the policy, arguing that it will threaten jobs and the community. The Federal Group, which hold the poker machine licence monopoly, has also said it will fight the reforms.

The Liberal Party has since come to the aid of Tasmanian pubs and clubs, stating it will not eradicate machines if re-elected in the coming months. The Liberals said they do not want to tell the majority of players who are responsible how to spend their money. They will cap the number of machines allowed to 2350 and grant venues the opportunity to apply for a 20-year licence once the Federal Group’s expires in 2023.

Nick Xenophon relaxes on poker machine ban

Anti-poker machine campaigner, Nick Xenophon has been fighting to eradicate poker machines from Australia since he first entered politics 20 years ago. But the former Senator, who is running in the South Australian election in March with his party SA Best, has reportedly loosened his stance on pokies.

First elected due to his policy to stamp out poker machines in Australia, Xenophon’s new policy aims to do more for problem gambling treatment instead of eradicating the machines. The full policy is expected to be released this week.

Meanwhile, South Australian Premier, Jay Weatherill has promised to reduce the number of venues which can have poker machines should the Labor Party be re-elected. There are currently 12,200 poker machines in the state, which Weatherill said Labor has unsuccessfully been trying to reduce due to the Liberals.