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Online bookies up in arms over Tabcorp & Tatts live betting dodge

TAB mobile charging station
SEVERAL of Australia’s most prominent online bookmakers have urged the federal government to reconsider law changes that could allow Tabcorp and Tatts to offer digital in-play betting services.

Senator Mitch Fifield and Human Services boss Alan Tudge recently unveiled the Interactive Gambling Amendments Bill, which aims to clamp down on offshore betting activity and close up the loopholes that let internet bookies promote in-play wagering via ‘click to call’ products.

But the head honchos at CrownBet, Sportsbet, Bet365 and Ladbrokes have joined forces to combat certain clauses that could give Tabcorp and Tatts, which announced a $11.3 billion mega merger last month, a free run at the online live betting market.

In a letter addressed to Mr. Fifield, Mr. Tudge, Treasurer Scott Morrison and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the corporate bookmakers pointed out that measures permitting wagering services that “involve the use of electronic equipment made available to any customers” in retail outlets could hand the Tabcorp-Tatts conglomerate an enormous advantage.

That language is intended to describe digital punting terminals at clubs, pubs and betting shops, but the disgruntled bookies are of the view that it leaves the door open for TAB outlets to offer customers smartphone or tablet devices in store to be used for live wagering on the premises.

According to the Australian Financial Review, the letter said the new IGA bill’s subtle wording would “lead to perverse outcomes where a customer who wants to engage in online in-play sports betting couldn’t do so outside on the footpath with their tablet, but could do so using an identical digital device provided to them within a Tabcorp or Tatts retail venue”.

Live sports betting has proven to be a massive hit with Australian punters, with Sportsbet reporting that it made up around 15 per cent of the company’s online wagering business until all such services were shut down in September.

Our thoughts on the live betting ban

Can Canberra get anything right?

The decision to outlaw online in-play wagering marks a worrying intrusion on the liberties of the Aussie gambler, whose appetite for the punt is unmatched worldwide.

Now the government seems happy to leave the wording of these new laws so vague that Australia’s biggest land-based betting operators can take over the entire market unopposed.

Internet bookmakers made their grievances known weeks ago, so Mr. Fifield and Mr. Tudge had ample time to revise the bill’s language before it hit the floor on November 10.

As detailed in the bookies’ letter, the current conditions could lead to a confounding scenario in which punters would have to visit a TAB store in order to place live bets online.

That means you would be allowed to make in-play wagers on the web while watching a live football game at the MCG, which has a betting shop, but not from home via your own computer, mobile phone, or tablet device.

The whole point of these amendments was to tie up the loose ends left by the 2001 Interactive Gambling Act.

As things stand, these new rules are merely fashioning a new set of loopholes that will need to be fixed down the road.

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