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Tabcorp found guilty of offering inducements to new customers

TabcorpTABCORP can’t seem to take a trick this month.

After weeks of controversy surrounding potential takeovers and overseas investors, Tabcorp Holdings Limited was this week found guilty in Sydney‘s Downing Centre Local Court on three counts relating to an August 2015 promotion that offered bonus bets and other rewards as inducements.

In Australia it is illegal for bookmakers to publish advertisements that tempt residents of New South Wales with incentives to gamble or open betting accounts. The case follows other such prosecutions that involved the likes of Ladbrokes, Unibet and Bet365.

Tabcorp Holdings Limited has denied the offences and the case has now been adjourned for sentencing in February.

Was advertising in jurisdictions that prohibit gambling adverts a calculated risk?

For the majority of punters in this country, Tabcorp has been the dominant force for as long as they can remember, but its position at the forefront of the gambling queue is in serious risk of slipping into obscurity.

Tabcorp has an estimated $14 billion-plus stranglehold on the Australian market, but overseas bookmakers such as William Hill and Sportsbet have threatened to derail its empire.

Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer for Tabcorp, David Attenborough, believes his company was not promoting its services outside the paradigm that the international raiders had set.

“I think it’s been a very competitive market and in competitive markets boundaries can be stretched,” Mr Attenborough said.

“I think it’s good to see the government actually providing clarity on where those boundaries will be set going forward and what is important in competitive markets is you need to have clear boundaries so all players can operate within those boundaries.”

The one market Tabcorp will continue to dominate is the in-play betting sector. The Australian government introduced harsh new laws that eliminated sports betting company’s abilities to offer ‘touch to bet’ markets, which used an automated phone service to place live bets.

Customers wanting to place a live bet now have to do so through a live operator, but Tabcorp clients can use a betting terminal in person and place an in-play bet at the touch of a button.

Human Services Minister for Australia Alan Tudge said the government has no plans to roll back their mandate.

“The government does not intend to further expand the online betting market in Australia by legalizing online in-play betting,” Minister Tudge said.

“We think there are enough problems with gambling already before giving people the ability to bet on every moment of every sport across Australia from your living room.”

Sports betting ‘union’ elects not to impose potential Australia-wide advertising ban

Sometimes it’s better to pick your battles rather than contesting them all.

A newly-formed sports betting body supported by Bet365, CrownBet and Sportsbet has thrown its weight behind a mooted move to expand the legalisation that prevents companies advertising gambling to New South Wales residents to the entirety of Australia.

Responsible Wagering Australia, which is headed by former government minister Stephen Conroy, plans to back the country-wide ban on inducements to new customers.

“A national ban is in the long-term interests of consumers, operators and regulators and would further strengthen harm-minimisation efforts in the sector,” Mr Conroy said.

“A ban that applies right across Australia is the only way to ensure that an appropriate level of consumer protection is offered regardless of where an individual lives.”

Our take – is stifling advertising to new customers really that harmful?

Sports fans are no strangers to gambling advertising. It’s the lead-in to almost every game, littered through the coverage and its ongoing commentary.

Gambling advertising is truly ubiquitous, but it is the company’s prerogative to push its product as much as possible while the avenue exists.

So it stands to reason – if the companies can bombard us 24 hours a day, why can’t they offer us incentives to sign up? We live in a society that grants us free-will, which means you can elect to take advantage of those bonuses if you have an account or you don’t. It is that simple.

The government is getting into dangerous territory when they elect to outlaw certain aspects of gambling advertising without just hitting companies with a blackout. They know the revenue generated is vital to their own expenditure, as well as the livelihood of television stations, which rely on the advertising income.

The anti-gambling advocates will see this as a win, but while sports betting agencies are allowed to advertise day in, day out on every possible medium, is this truly going to make an impact in the war against problem gambling?

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