It’s often said that politics makes for strange bedfellows, but online betting companies that oppose an in-play betting carveout given to Australian firms Tabcorp and Tatts Group have been joined by some truly unlikely allies.
Last month, Australia unveiled proposed changes to its Interactive Gambling Act 2001, which include a ban on online in-play sports betting. But Aussie-licensed online betting operators cried foul when they learned that Tabcorp and Tatts would still be permitted to offer in-play betting via mobile devices in the companies’ land-based betting shops.
The online betting sites’ opposition has since been echoed by the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT), a centrist political party led by the notoriously anti-gambling senator of the same name. The NXT filed its objections to parliament last week, saying the Tabcorp/Tatts carveout could actually expand online in-play betting.
The NXT’s submission says its experience is that staff in the betting venues “rarely intervene … when they believe a customer is struggling to control their gambling.” The NXT pointed out that the government had failed to conduct any modeling to determine whether “the increased availability of these electronic devices” would lead to an uptick in in-play betting.
Also filing its objections with parliament were the Uniting Church’s Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, which said the venue in-play carveout “could provide a significant loophole for online gambling businesses.” Taking a curiously anti-protectionist tone, the group said the carveout will “favor those gambling providers that already have their own geographical locations that people gambling can go to.”
Despite these objections, the proposed changes to Australia’s gambling laws will likely be approved when Parliament resumes sitting in February. The opposition Labor party has gone on record as saying it will support the government’s proposals, although it also warned that it will monitor the venues to ensure there’s no surge in in-play wagering.
The proposed changes will also explicitly state that only online sports betting is permitted in Australia, and some major publicly traded online poker and casino operators, including Amaya Gaming’s PokerStars brand, have already indicated they will withdraw from the Australian market when the legislation is approved.