CrownBet cops to illegal NSW inducement; CITIbet’s carpark cash controversy

crownbet-convicted-nsw-gambling-inducementAustralian online betting operator CrownBet has been convicted of illegally offering come-hither glances to bettors in New South Wales.

Last week, Liquor & Gaming NSW, a branch of the state’s department of justice, had its day in court with CrownBet, the online betting arm of casino operator Crown Resorts. CrownBet stood accused of five counts of using prohibited advertising to convince NSW punters to take the plunge.

NSW law prohibits betting operators from offering financial incentives to wager or open new online betting accounts. The bonus offers for which CrownBet was charged reportedly appeared on the company’s website in October and December last year.

CrownBet originally tried to resolve the charges without being tagged with the scarlet letter of conviction. In the end, CrownBet took its lumps and copped to all five charges, for which the company was fined $10,500 plus an additional $10k to cover the NSW watchdogs’ legal costs.

NSW has been increasingly vigilant in enforcing its inducement laws, having successfully prosecuted other Aussie online operators, including the down under divisions of Bet365, Unibet and Ladbrokes Australia. The state continues to expand the definition of prohibited promos, including a ban on live betting ads during sports events that took effect last month.

Meanwhile, the recent brouhaha involving Australian racing and an Asian online betting giant continues to play itself out in the press via salacious tales of midnight rendezvous between punters and betting agents.

A few weeks ago, Australian officials revoked the online betting license-issuing privileges of the Norfolk Island Gaming Authority (NIGA), in part because NIGA issued a license last year to online betting exchange BetHQ, which in turn struck a white-label deal with Asian betting exchange CITIbet.

The Philippines-licensed, invitation-only, high-volume CITIbet has been the subject of scorn by both racing stakeholders and rival betting operators for poaching much of their action without paying the necessary fees and kickbacks. Both Racing NSW and Racing Victoria scrapped their licensing deals with BetHQ after the CITIbet connection came to light.

Over the weekend, the Herald Sun quoted anonymous sources who claimed that CITIbet agents made a habit of exchanging suitcases containing up to $100k in cash with Aussie punters in Melbourne carparks in the wee hours of the morning. The agents and punters were said to have a system of mutual recognition by first exchanging a $5 bill with a previously shared serial number, after which both parties are presumably required to yell ‘hail Satan’ and cackle with villainous glee.

Australian media’s tone has of late become increasingly strident regarding internationally licensed operators serving the market without a local license. The Australian government is currently sitting on the results of a review of its online gambling laws, which are expected to include calls for enhanced (but still largely ineffective) methods of blocking Australians from accessing international sites.