BUSINESS

Australian online bookies face new taxes, bonus restrictions

TAGs: Australia, Point of Consumption Tax, responsible wagering australia, Western Australia

australia-online-bookmakers-new-rulesAustralian online sports betting operators are facing new taxes and promotional restrictions as state governments continue efforts to rein in the nation’s only authorized online gambling activity.

On Thursday, the state government in Western Australia (WA) unveiled its latest budget, which included a 15% point of consumption tax (POCT) for online bookmakers who generate revenue from WA punters. The new tax, which will take effect January 1, 2019, makes good on a promise the WA government announced one year ago.

South Australia was the first Aussie state to introduce an online POCT, based on its belief that Northern Territory-licensed online bookmakers weren’t paying their fair due. This view was supported by domestic operators Tabcorp and Tatts, who have a physical presence across Australia and thus face a much higher tax burden.

The Responsible Wagering Australia (RWA) industry group protested WA’s plans, claiming that a go-it-alone approach will complicate the federal government’s plans to develop a national POCT policy.

RWA director Stephen Conroy claimed bookies are facing an effective tax rate of 40% on their WA punter revenue, and Conroy warned that operators will pass on at least some of these costs to WA bettors. This will encourage bettors to seek out more competitive offers from internationally licensed betting sites, which will result in “lower returns to the state’s racing industry and an increased reliance on government funding.”

NEW CURBS ON BONUSES, FREE BETS
Meanwhile, a meeting of federal and state ministers has agreed on new rules that will ban online bookmakers from offering punters certain types of free bets and other inducements.

On the chopping block are bonuses for new account signups and ‘refer a friend’ programs, and operators must allow punters to withdraw bonus bet winnings with no further turnover requirements.

Bookies will also require punters to ‘opt in’ to receive marketing pitches, and information on how to turn off these alerts must be made more accessible.

A national self-exclusion register must be operational by the end of 2017, while a voluntary pre-commitment scheme – under which bettors can set binding deposit limits – will be mandatory as of June 2018. New customers will also be prompted to set deposit limits when they open accounts.

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