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UP until 1993, if you weren’t a government entity, there was no way in hell you were getting a licence to run a bookmaker in Australia. The Victorian Government became the first jurisdiction to regulate racing betting with the establishment of the Totalisator Agency Board – what we know today as the TAB – way back in 1961. Read on to learn more of the history of online bookmaker licensing in Australia.
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The TAB was set up as a way of providing funding for both the government and the horse racing industry. The other states saw just how successful Victoria’s shiny new product was and wanted a slice of the pie. Each state and territory established its own version of the TAB, before, over time, selling off the regulator to private companies for a quick buck.
The TAB expanded to sports, entertainment and other betting markets over time and was the sole legal provider of betting markets up until 1993. You will still find versions of the TAB in each state:
The name Matthew Tripp is synonymous with betting. Every thing the man touches turns to gold. He is credited with changing the betting landscape, securing the first non-government licence after purchasing a little Darwin-based company called Sportsbet.
Yep, that’s right, Tripp, way back in 1993, convinced the Northern Territory government to issue Sportsbet with a license and the rest is history. Three years later, at the advent of the internet, CentreBet.com.au was launched. In 1996, it became the first licensed bookmaker to offer online betting in Australia.
Today, every mug with a market and a bit of cash is online, but things were different back then. It took five years for the government to really take notice of the phenomenon of the online sports betting world and it tackled the growth and interest in the industry by introducing a piece of legislation called the Interactive Gambling Act 2001.
The IGA 2001 provided a stringent set of guidelines restricting what services online bookmakers could offer and how they were allowed to operate on Australian shores. It was established in 2001, when things like smartphones were just a seed in the heads of people like Steve Jobs.
Times have changed significantly, with the advent of iPhones and tablets and other mobile devices making it easier than ever to access online bookmakers. The government is in fits over the prevalence of online gambling, tackling it head on with a review of the act and plans to make several amendments to close loopholes and tighten restrictions on the growing number of online bookmakers.
Providing an online betting book in Australia isn’t as simple as just throwing it up and collecting bets. There is a minefield of state and Federal laws potential operators need to follow in order to provide a strong service which does not contravene any of the regulations.
The aforementioned Interactive Gambling Act (2001) provides regulation of betting companies in Australia at a federal level. It allows licensed online bookmakers to offer markets on a variety of sports, racing and other events, but prohibits them from offering betting on live events.
The law states people must pick up the phone and call to place their bets on events already live, but that didn’t stop the bookmakers from trying their luck and attempting to exploit a loophole in the archaic regulation.
A service, which some call ‘click to call’ betting was offered by several online bookmakers. It involved punters using smartphones to place online bets, which appeared to be a breach of the law. The bookies argued that provided the punters had made sure they switched on their microphones in their smartphone devices, they were allowed to make the bet without contravening any laws.
And it looked like they would get away with it, with the Federal Police deciding to abandon a probe on William Hill over the service. But the bookies were hit with a bombshell in 2016 when Federal Human Services Minister Alan Tudge went out of his way to close the loophole. He has asked the bookmakers to stop offering the service and plans to ban it once the legislation can be passed through he Parliament. So, anyone who has a license, will have to go back to the old fashion way of taking their online live bets over the phone, rather than offering customers the service and convenience of a couple of taps on their mobile phones.
Not only do the bookmakers have to deal with the Federal Law, but they also have state laws to abide by, racing and sports bodies who want a piece of the pie and offer product fees on their sports and bodies like the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission putting their two bobs worth in.
Licensed bookmakers will find one of their biggest challengers is dealing with off-shore bookmakers stealing their business from overseas. They aren’t regulated or governed by Australian law and therefore can do pretty much what they want, with little to no fear of recourse. While the bookmakers do have a mountain of rules and regulations to follow, the average Australian citizen cannot be punished for gambling online.
A couple of other key laws online bookmakers must abide by include the fact each of their punters must be over the age of 18 to lay a bet. They must also make a reasonable effort to obtain proof of identity from their customers.
You’ll find a nearly endless number of online bookmakers with licenses in Australia. Some will be household names, with their marketing splashed all over social media, television and radio. While other smaller niche bookmakers you may never have heard of.
Either way, we’ve inspected them all for quality, markets and service and come up with a list of six of the best online bookmakers holding licenses in the country. It means you don’t have to do the hard work when it comes to choosing a bookmaker.