Debate over the impact of off-shore sports wagering has blown up again following submissions to the O’Farrell review by the major sporting bodies and industry stakeholders including the AHA.

The 2001 Interactive Gambling Act allows for “in-play” betting via land-based systems such as pubs, Clubs and TABS, but crucially – not online.

The Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports (COMPPS) submitted to former NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell’s review into the impact of offshore betting that preventing legitimate sports betting operators to take these kinds of wagers created an “integrity blind spot” where unregulated entities flourish.

“Any amount of betting that takes place with offshore betting operators poses a relatively higher risk to maintaining the betting integrity of a sport when compared to betting that takes place on the regulated Australian betting market,’’ read COMPPS’ submission.

But the Australian Hotels Association, Clubs, and entities such as Tabcorp argue that a move away from land-based betting systems is not in the interests of consumer harm minimisation or the sports and racing industries.

Stephen Ferguson, AHA National CEO
Stephen Ferguson, AHA National CEO

“The current system forces punters to physically present to a venue or call a booking service to make a bet during a match or race, rather than have a 24-hour casino in their back pocket,” AHA CEO Stephen Ferguson told PubTIC.

The AHA’s submission to the O’Farrell review centred on the issues of:

  1. Harm minimisation to the consumer – through protection from the largely unregulated environment of offshore wagering
  2. Returns to Government and sporting and racing institutions, through existing taxes and charges paid
  3. A challenge to show how integrity guarantees would be ensured, when compared to existing channels such as racing – particularly in the instance of “an explosion in online in-play betting”

Figures suggest over $100 million annually already goes overseas, instead of into the operational coffers of Government, the racing and sporting industries, and venues.

While Australia’s biggest gaming operator, Tabcorp, could certainly execute shifts toward the online marketplace, it suggests there are better ways of reducing the impact of illegal bookmakers than opening the internet floodgate.

Unlike some prolific whack-a-mole online entities that constantly re-invent their existence, relying on social media and search engines, internet gambling sites requesting credit card details are more susceptible to hard-line exclusion tactics such as website blocking, funds transfer conditions and stricter penalties for non-compliance.

O’Farrell is scheduled to report the review’s findings to the Federal Government in December.

gambling concept: businessman hand holding a touch phone with bet app
gambling concept: businessman hand holding a touch phone with bet app
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