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Minimum bet limits in Australia

In horse, harness and greyhound racing, there are rules designed to protect punters and keep the bookies honest. Minimum bet limits (MBLs) give gamblers the chance to bet on any type of racing at fixed odds. Read on to find out more about Australian bet limits and how they apply to punters in each state.

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What are minimum bet limits?

Minimum bet limits determine the smallest amount of money a punter can bet to win before a bookmaker can legally refuse their business. For example: if a state’s MBL is $2,000 for a net win and a horse is paying $5, bookies are obliged to accept bets up to $500 on that runner.

These laws were introduced to combat the trend of corporate betting operators blocking punters – especially the successful ones – from making large wagers at fixed odds. If a gambler was winning on a regular basis, the bookie would close their account without notice.

That was the norm for years. Something had to change, so Australia’s major horse racing bodies brought in measures to ensure that any eligible punter who wanted to bet at fixed odds could do so. Now, bookies that contravene a state or territory’s MBL laws run the risk of losing their gambling licence.

What bet types do MBL laws cover?

It is important to understand that each state’s MBL rules only apply to fixed-odds bets on win, place and each-way markets. In some states, such as NSW, minimum bet limits may cover win-and-place wagers but not place-only wagers.

The laws can apply to multi bets, but only when every leg on the ticket is a fixed-odds racing market and all races are taking place in the same state. For multis which meet that criteria, the MBL applies to the total payout of the combined bets and not to each individual leg. In some states, such as Victoria, MBL rules do not cover multi bets at all.

Most other bet types are exempt from MBL conditions. That includes bonus bets, free bets and boosted odds promotions, exotics such as exactas, quinellas and trifectas, and derivative products such as best tote. Any bets that do not have a set and determined return before the result will not fall under the umbrella of the MBL.

Minimum bet limits do not apply to retail betting at pubs, clubs and other such venues. This is because it is impossible for vendors to determine whether a punter is using a proxy to place multiple wagers on the same runner in the same race.

How do minimum bet limits work?

Most MBL rules apply to the net win – that is, the amount of money gained minus the original stake – for a fixed-odds bet. For example: if a horse is paying $3 to win and the minimum bet limit is $2,000, bookmakers are required to accept wagers up to $1,000 ($3,000 return – $1,000 stake = $2,000 net win).

As such, the MBL changes from the punter’s end depending on the payout odds. Short-priced runners allow for higher stakes, while bookmakers can cut you off much lower when the odds are long. For example: with a $2,000 limit you can bet up to $1,000 on a $3 horse, but a bookie can restrict you to only $20 on a $101 runner ($2,020 return = $2,000 net win + $20 stake).

This forces online bookmakers to pay out decent amounts of cash whilst also encouraging punters to bet via the tote instead of fixed odds. Previously a bookie would simply deactivate an account that was deemed a liability to the company. With the minimum bet limit, accounts cannot be deactivated and punters can win a great amount.

Bear in mind that MBL rules are guidelines for how much bookies can stand to lose before they start knocking back bets. Should you fancy upping the ante, there is nothing to prevent a betting operator from accepting a wager that exceeds the minimum bet limit. Thus, if the MBL is $2,000 and you propose a bet that would net you more than that, the ball is in the bookie’s court.

Minimum bet laws by state and territory

MBL laws can apply to three different types of races: thoroughbreds, harnesses and greyhounds. Most states also have different limits for metropolitan racing and non-metro meetings.

Victoria and Queensland are the only two states that have minimum bet limits for all three racing codes. At the other end of the spectrum, Western Australia and the Northern Territory have no MBL laws whatsoever.

It is important to note that these limits apply to the jurisdiction in which the race is staged, not where the bet is placed. For example: if your are in South Australia and you place a bet on a race at Flemington, the Victorian MBL rules will apply.

MBL rules in New South Wales

Thoroughbreds
Metropolitan 2,000 win bet, $800 place component
Non-metropolitan $1,000 win bet, $400 place component
Harness
Metropolitan $1,000 win bet
Non-metropolitan $500 win bet
Platinum race meeting $2,000 win bet
Greyhounds
None

Racing NSW was the first governing body in Australia to introduce minimum bet limits. The original set of rules were implemented in September 2014, while the revised guidelines came into effect in June 2015.

NSW’s minimum bet limits for thoroughbred racing apply to win, win-and-place and each-way bets made after 9am on the day of the race. For night meetings, only bets placed after 2pm on raceday are subject to MBL rules. Place limits only cover that component of a win-and-place bet. MBL conditions apply to the total payout of a multi bet where all legs are eligible fixed-odds wagers on races taking place in NSW.

For harness racing, only fixed-odds win bets are covered by the minimum bet limit. As with thoroughbreds, the rules only apply to wagers made after 9am on raceday and 2pm for night meetings.

Minimum bet limits in Victoria

Thoroughbreds
Metropolitan $2,000 win bet, $800 place bet
Non-metropolitan $1,000 win bet, $400 place bet
Harness
Metropolitan $1,000 win bet
Non-metropolitan $500 win bet
Greyhounds
Metropolitan $750 win bet
Non-metropolitan $500 win bet

Victoria’s minimum bet limits for horse racing were introduced in October 2016. A few years later, it became the first state in Australia to lay down MBL rules for harness and greyhound racing.

For thoroughbreds, limits apply to win, place and each-way bets made after 9am on the day of the race, and after 2pm for night meetings. MBL rules do not cover any wagers that are part of a multi bet.

The MBL rules for harness racing only apply to bets made within an hour of the scheduled start of the meeting’s opening race. For greyhound racing, the betting limits cover wagers placed within two hours of each race’s scheduled start.

MBL rules in Queensland

Thoroughbreds
Metropolitan $2,000 win bet, $800 place bet
Non-metropolitan $1,000 win bet, $400 place bet
Harness
$500 win bet
Greyhounds
$500 win bet

Australia’s third-most populous state followed the Victorian model when it introduced minimum bet limits for horse racing at the start of 2018. Queensland was also an early mover on MBL rules for greyhounds and harness racing, which came into effect in mid-2019.

For thoroughbreds, bet limits only apply to wagers made after 9am on raceday. For trots and dogs, MBL rules only cover bets made within an hour of the race’s scheduled starting time.

Minimum bet limits in Tasmania

Thoroughbreds
$1,000 win bets
Harness
None
Greyhounds
None

Tasracing’s decision to implement minimum bet limits ensured that all four of the eastern states were on the same page. Given the island’s relatively modest racing industry, however, the Tasmanian MBL rules are much simpler than those in play on the mainland.

In Tassie, minimum bet limits only apply to fixed-odds win bets on thoroughbred racing. The rules cover any qualifying wager made after 9am on raceday.

MBL rules in South Australia

Thoroughbreds
Metropolitan $2,000 win bet, $800 place bet
Non-metropolitan $1,000 win bet, $400 place bet
Harness
None
Greyhounds
None

Introduced in July 2018, South Australia’s minimum bet limits for thoroughbred racing closely resemble those used in Victoria and Queensland. That is no coincidence, as Racing SA was wary of creating further inconsistencies in policy from state to state.

As per the Vics, win limits apply to win-only bets as well as the ‘win’ portion of win-and-place and each-way bets. MBL rules apply to all wagers placed after 9am on raceday, or after 2pm for night meetings.

ACT minimum bet limits

Thoroughbreds
Black Opal Stakes meeting $2,000 win bet, $800 place bet
All other races $1,000 win bet, $400 place bet
Harness
None
Greyhounds
None

As the Australian Capital Territory is surrounded by New South Wales on all sides, it should surprise nobody that the region’s bet limits are closely modelled on the Racing NSW guidelines. The Black Opal Stakes meeting follows Sydney metro rules, while all other ACT meetings use the same model as NSW country racing.

Why are there no MBL rules in WA or NT?

Believe it or not, the Northern Territory was the first jurisdiction in Australia to introduce minimum bet limits for horse racing. Those rules were later scrapped after several complaints from online bookmakers, many of whom are licensed and regulated in the NT. As betting companies make up a big part of the region’s economy, MBL laws have not been sighted in the territory since.

The situation in Western Australia is less straightforward. Some will say it simply takes a little longer for things to get done out west, but the ever-changing nature of the Australian gambling industry has played a part. One suspects MBL rules will come into play at some point, but it is difficult to say exactly when.

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