Mobile boosts Tabcorp turnover; call for Aussie sports bet ban “impractical”

tabcorp-australia-sports-bet-banAustralian betting and keno operator Tabcorp reported net profits of $72.9m in the first six months of its financial year ending Dec. 31. That’s a 61.5% haircut from the same period a year ago, reflecting (a) the August 2012 loss of the video poker machine duopoly Tabcorp and Tatts Group enjoyed in the state of Victoria, and (b) less favorable wagering revenue sharing agreements in Victoria. Tabcorp has filed a $687m suit against Victoria for a ‘refund’ stemming from the loss of its lucrative pokies business.

Overall Tabcorp revenues were up 2.1% to $1.03b, aided by a 15.9% rise in digital turnover. Tabcorp says 28% of its total online turnover of $1.25b came via mobile devices. The growing clout of mobile wagering had a negative impact on retail turnover at TAB outlets, which was up a mere 0.9% to $2.04b in NSW while turnover at Victorian retail outlets fell 1.9% to $1.57b. Overall wagering revenue was $1.01b, with keno operations adding another $106.5m (+15.3%), media and international operations adding $101.5m (+8.1%) and pub pokie management division Tabcorp Gaming Solutions (TGS) contributing $37.8m.

A 12-month investigation by the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) has revealed widespread use of banned performance enhancing drugs (PED) by professional athletes. The ACC also claims that organized crime members are supplying athletes with PED in the hopes of later blackmailing players into agreeing to fix the outcome of matches. While it makes for great anti-betting headlines, after a year’s worth of effort, the ACC stated that they were investigating one possible case of match fixing. One case. One possible case. (Have we established the proper perspective yet?)

Nonetheless, the ACC report has prompted independent senator and perpetual anti-gambling scold Nick Xenophon to call for a total ban on sports bets and for a number of unspecified measures to be passed “to ensure the integrity” of Aussie sports. Together with Greens senator Richard Di Natale, Xenophon got the Senate to pass a motion this week requiring the joint select committee on gambling reform to hold an inquiry into betting’s impact on sport, with a particular focus on the broadcasting of betting odds during matches. The committee will report its findings on May 16, but until then, Xenophon wants “a suspension on sports betting in this country.”

A more sober perspective was provided by Victorian police Deputy Commissioner Graham Ashton, who acknowledged that match fixing was a concern, but said there was no evidence that anything was amiss in his home state. Victorian premier Ted Baillieu said Xenophon’s pursuit of a ban was “impractical” and “it’s not going to happen … I think education of those who do bet and making sure your sport is clean and has all the integrity systems is the way to go.”

Tattsbet’s Gerard Daffy also said he hadn’t seen widespread evidence of fixing. Daffy told ABC news that a bet ban would actually increase the likelihood of match fixing, as established bookmakers have systems that track all transactions. “The only two or three times there’s been any evidence at all [of match fixing], it’s been brought to a halt or brought to the authorities pretty much straight away.” A Tabcorp spokesman told The Australian that Australian betting outfits “have sophisticated measures in place to indentify and manage integrity matters.” Banning bets would simply drive the practice “underground and unchecked.”