BUSINESS

Ladbrokes revives live betting in Australia as think tank warns gov’t it’s ‘pointless’ to hold back in-play wagers

TAGs: Bet365, Chris Berg, IPA, Jasmine Solana, Ladbrokes Australia, Simon Breheny, William Hill

Ladbrokes Australia relaunched its in-play live betting feature, joining William Hill and Bet365 in allowing punters to bet on live events via the Internet.

Ladbrokes revives live betting feature in AustraliaThe British bookmaker reactivated its live-betting feature—now called LivePlay—last week, The Australian reported. The relaunch happened months after Ladbrokes decided to withdraw the feature—called Quickcall at the time—back in July following the Australian Communication Agency’s (ACMA) announcement that it will investigate the service.

ACMA alleged the live-betting feature is a breach of the 2001 Internet Gambling Act, but William Hill challenged the probe in October after the Australian Federal Police (AFP) declared it will not investigate the bookmaker’s controversial Bet In-Play smartphone app.

Ladbrokes’s Australian rivals and the Irish-owned Sportsbet have yet to launch their own live betting features, fearing that having a system that allows bets to be placed at the click of a button is against Australia’s gambling laws.

The outdated Internet Gambling Act, however, is about to get a major makeover that will allow for new provisions that are in line with the modern consumer habits. Former NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell—who was tasked to lead the review—is expected to hand in his review this week.

But before that, researchers from the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) are urging regulators to drop the “paternalistic” restrictions against gambling, particularly in-play betting and offshore websites.

“The ban on ‘live’ or ‘in the run’ betting is technologically illiterate and easy to avoid,” IPA researchers Chris Berg and Simon Breheny wrote. “Live betting offers Australian consumers a deeper participatory experience. Live betting also allows informed participants to manage their risk.”

The IPA also warned the government that forbidding punters to access overseas betting sites is “a form of rent seeking,” which “goes against the fundamental principles of Australia’s open economy.”

“Offshore wagering offers consumer and competitive benefits. It expands the choices for Australian consumers,” the Australian think tank said. “Offshore wagering also provides valuable competitive pressure on the Australian wagering industry. Greater competitive pressure leads to more competitive odds, greater opportunities for informed betting, and moves the market closer to a reflection of the “true” odds of uncertain events.”

There are 30 online gambling sites operating in the country, but Social Services Minister Scott Morrison said only about 40 percent of the industry’s $1.6 billion revenue enters Australia’s coffers. The rest, he said, goes to more than 2,000 international websites that are out of the government’s reach.

But the Australian think tank is firm on its stance that the government’s “paternalistic” attitude against gambling will only hurt the country in the long run.

“Paternalism has no legitimate place in a free and liberal society,” the IPA said. “Gambling laws which prohibit certain activities, or nudge individuals into making decisions they would otherwise not have made, violate the assumption of moral autonomy and individual capability that underpins democratic participation.”

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