Australian sports leagues support lifting online in-play betting ban

australia-sports-leagues-in-play-bettingAustralia’s professional spots bodies want the government to relax its prohibition of online in-play betting in order to preserve the integrity of their product.

Australia is currently conducting a review of its 2001 Interactive Gambling Act (IGA) with a particular focus on how to combat the alleged negative effects of international online gambling sites offering services to Aussie punters. Part of these sites’ appeal is their ability to offer in-play sports wagers, which the IGA restricts to telephone or retail wagering outlets.

In a submission to the government panel tasked with reviewing the IGA, the Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports (COMPPS) – whose seven members include the Australian Football League, Cricket Australia, Tennis Australia and the National Rugby League – says the IGA’s “anachronistic” in-play restrictions have created an “integrity blind spot” in which match-fixers can run wild.

According to The Australian, COMPPS’s submission claims that in-play shenanigans would be far easier to spot if Australian-licensed online operators were doing the spotting. The current situation “poses a relatively higher risk” to match integrity than COMPPS believes would exist if Aussie operators could control some of the betting action currently headed outside the country.

COMPPS’ support for domestic online in-play sports mirrors the position of the Australian Wagering Council, whose own submission to the IGA review panel stressed the money the government was losing via untaxed wagering with international sites.

Australia’s racing industry has taken the opposite position, arguing it its submission that allowing online in-play wagering on sports could cost racing $10m per year. The Australian Hotels Association, whose members include pubs with betting outlets, has also urged the panel to maintain the status quo.

News of COMPPS’ favorable view of online in-play wagering produced a typical response from Independent Sen. Nick Xenophon, who has yet to find a pro-gambling proposal he could support. The Herald Sun quoted Xenophon saying he couldn’t believe “the greed of our sporting codes” for seeking “many tens of millions of dollars from online gambling companies.”

Xenophon challenged COMPPS’ argument that allowing domestic firms to offer online in-play wagers would decrease the potential for match-fixing, saying the move would increase “the risk of a major betting scandal that will deeply damage the integrity of their sporting codes.” As usual, Xenophon cited no data to support this claim, nor for his claim that sporting bodies were “facilitating more addiction, more problems among their very fans.”

Xenophon is essentially arguing for the barn door to be shut long after the cows have fled. Aussie-licensed operators like William Hill have already launched apps that rely on smartphone voice recognition technology to bring online in-play to Aussie punters. The apps have proven both hugely popular and highly controversial, but the Australian Federal Police have declined to pursue an investigation into the matter, and here we are.