Northern Territory lures Betfair; in-play sports betting apps proving tough to kill

betfair-australia-northern-territoryAustralia’s Northern Territory approved legislation that authorizes exchange wagering as part of an apparently successful plan to lure Betfair Australia to the NT.

The NT is Australia’s premier online sports betting jurisdiction, with 13 corporate bookmakers calling it home. However, exchange betting was not on the NT’s menu, which meant Betfair’s down under division, which is owned by Australian casino operator Crown Resorts, is licensed by the Tasmania Liquor and Gaming Commission.

In mid-April, NT Gaming Minister Peter Styles introduced legislation he described as an “attractive lure” to coax Betfair north. Styles said the NT could offer Betfair a better financial shake – the company would pay around $805k in annual tax and fees – as well as a “quicker response to operational issues than the Tasmanian regulator.”

A Betfair spokesman told NT News that it would make sense for Betfair to be located alongside Crown Resorts’ NT-licensed online sports betting operation CrownBet and suggested the company would seek an NT license provided politicians approve Styles’ Racing and Betting Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 and “provided the regime is viable.”

Last week, the NT parliament approved the bill, leading a triumphant Styles to announce that Betfair would be relocating to Darwin, initially with around a dozen staff. Styles predicted that the new wagering options would “act as a catalyst to attract international operators” to the NT.

Meanwhile, NT-licensed operators are dragging their heels on shutting down their controversial online in-play sports betting apps. Last month, Australia’s federal government delivered its review of the 2001 Interactive Gambling Act (IGA), which restricts remote in-play sports wagers to over the telephone. The review said the status quo should remain in place and promised legislation to underscore this position.

At the time, Human Services Minister Alan Tudge said he expected the operators offering the voice-activated smartphone apps to disable their apps more or less immediately. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Tudge followed up by sending letters to the offending companies informing them that they were “breaching the provisions and intent” of the IGA.

Whatever the IGA’s intent, the operators appear intent on preserving their extremely popular apps until the government formally passes new legislation that eliminates the IGA’s ambiguity. We eagerly await Sportsbet running an ad featuring the Australian equivalent of Charlton Heston (Mel Gibson?) holding a smartphone over his head while bellowing “From my cold dead hands!”