Sportsbet, TAB top Australian betting survey; ACTAB for sale; TAB WA rebrands

sportsbet-tab-tom-waterhouse-ralph-toppingAustralian sports bettors have little to say about the Centrebet and Sportingbet brands, justifying William Hill CEO Ralph Topping’s decision to consolidate Hills’ operations in the country. This August, consumer research firm Global Reviews asked Australians if they could name any sports betting companies without prompting and Hills’ most recent acquisition Tom Waterhouse scored an impressive 43% initial recall rate. But when consumers were asked to express a preference for a particular betting brand, the Waterhouse ranking fell to just 12%.

The scores were even worse for Hills’ other recent acquisitions. Centrebet’s brand preference rate was half that of Waterhouse’s, while Sportingbet didn’t even make the top-five. Paddy Power subsidiary Sportsbet topped the preference chart with 34% followed by Tabcorp’s TAB offshoot at 21%. Among consumers who couldn’t name a betting brand without prompting, TAB took top preference honors at 33% with Sportsbet not far behind at 27%. Tom Waterhouse was once again Hill’s standout but still well off the pace at 12%. The disregard that Topping (pictured above) reserves for Tabcorp and other “comfortable monopolies” was already public knowledge, so this just adds fuel to the fire.

The state government in the Australian Capital Territory is looking to sell its ACTAB betting agency rather than invest any more money into the business. State Treasurer Andrew Barr said a recent study by Pricewaterhouse Coopers determined that the state would have to invest “tens of millions of dollars” for ACTAB to remain viable in the face of increased competition. Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said that finding “makes a very compelling case for pursuing alternatives to government ownership.”

ACTAB generated $2.1m in profit in 2011-12, but the PwC study said the ACT wagering market is “under threat from interstate wagering operators.” As such, the state should expect a 3.6% compound annual decline in ACTAB’s pre-government fee profits over the coming four years. Although it appears to be a foregone conclusion, ACTAB’s fate won’t be officially announced until November. The government hasn’t offered any estimates for what price ACTAB’s sale might command.

The only other state-owned TAB, TAB Western Australia, isn’t for sale, although WA Premier Colin Barnett said “components” of the operation could go on the block to help reduce government debt. Barnett said there were “some contradictions” in the state owning a betting operation while restricting the number of video poker (pokie) machines at the Crown Perth casino. But Barnett vowed to hold on to the TAB because it supported the state’s racing industry, which would otherwise get out its begging bowl with “request after request for track upgrades” and such.

Meanwhile, TAB WA has embarked on its first major rebrand in 15 years. The changes include new store signage and a new TABtouch website, while Racing Radio is now known as TABradio. The 303Lowe agency designed the campaign, which features TV spots in which the WA equivalent of Fabio (TABio?) rides and strides through a series of racing and sports events while talking up WA heritage themes and the TAB’s “iconic status” in the state.

Frankly, the spot’s not quite satirical enough, and will likely be taken by older viewers minus the tongue in cheek. Then again, that may have been the plan of 303Lowe’s head of strategy Derry Simpson, who said the challenge facing his company was dealing with the TAB’s “aging customer base.” So the old folks get a 90-second dose of feel-good pseudo-patriotism, while the “younger punting audience” that TAB is looking to attract has a chuckle at the irony. Or maybe both groups get pissed at being patronized and go bet with those Godless sodomites at Sportsbet.