The government department overseeing Australia’s online gambling review has hinted that the process will result in the legalization of online in-play sports betting.
On Thursday, Alan Tudge, Assistant Minister for Social Services, told the Daily Telegraph that he didn’t think legal in-play wagering would exacerbate the match-fixing controversies that have overshadowed this year’s Australian Open tennis tournament.
Australia’s Interactive Gambling Act restricts in-play bets to over the telephone or in person at betting shops. But numerous operators, led by William Hill Australia, have come up with technological workarounds that allow in-play wagers to be placed via mobile apps.
Recognizing that technology was trumping the law, the government tasked former NSW premier Barry O’Farrell with reviewing the IGA. O’Farrell has reportedly delivered his report to the government, but its findings won’t be made public until next month.
Tudge (pictured nudging and winking) told the Daily Telegraph that legal in-play betting wouldn’t lead to greater opportunities for match- and spot-fixing because Australian-licensed bookmakers would be required to report suspicious betting patterns to the government. Tudge said anyone intent on fixing a match would likely patronize any number of “southeast Asian sites” where they would be outside the Aussie government’s scrutiny.
While far from conclusive, Tudge’s comments strongly suggest that the government has decided that if you can’t beat ‘em, you might as well join ‘em (and tax the bejeezus out of it).
The in-play betting question has divided Australia’s gambling stakeholders, with international operators, the Australian Wagering Council, sports leagues and some state governments in favor, while anti-gambling types, racing groups, pokies operators and domestic operators like Tatts and Tabcorp stand opposed.
O’Farrell’s review was also asked to consider ways to staunch the flow of Aussie betting money to international sites holding licenses issued in jurisdictions other than Australia. Suggested remedies have included the use of IP-blocking, although an association of tech giants warned the government of the “fundamental flaws and significant difficulties” of such efforts.