As promised, UK bookies Betfred have dipped their toes into the Australian betting market via the soft launch of their mobile sports betting site. The Northern Territory-licensed product began taking Aussie wagers this week in what Betfred Australia managing director Luke Brill called the first phase of a multi-phased approach. Brill told eGaming Review that the mobile site would be followed shortly by Android and iOS apps and later this year by a desktop site with a dedicated racing product.
Betfred’s racing product may arrive just in time to get hit with higher product fees on Victorian races. Effective July 1, Racing Victoria says it will raise product fees for Premium Group 1 meetings from the current rate of 2% of turnover to 3% of turnover or 30% of gross revenue. The new fees are valid only for 12 months, leaving open the possibility of further hikes come next July.
The fee hike has earned the ire of Chris Downy, CEO of the Australian Wagering Council, who says the “short sighted” decision will “result in a significant increase in the cost of doing business” for Aussie-licensed online bookies. The AWC’s membership includes Betfair, Bet365, Unibet’s Betchoice brand, Paddy Power’s Sportsbet and the down under divisions of Ladbrokes and William Hill.
With AWC members already hampered by their inability to legally offer online casino or poker products, Downy says the increased fees will affect the competitiveness of Aussie-licensed bookies, forcing even more punters into the arms of internationally licensed sites. Downy warned Racing Victoria that AWC members were willing to pay “a fair and reasonable sum” for wagering rights, but if one party got greedy, “everyone will suffer in the longer term.”
Downy believes the brief 12-month commitment of Racing Victoria’s latest increase will “stifle short and long term commercial and strategic planning for our members.” This could negatively affect expansion plans, technological development and how much sponsorship money AWC members can splash around. Downy said racing’s future depended less on simply jacking up fees and more on “innovation, digitalization and a renewed customer-centric racing experience.”