Push on to legalise live betting online in Australia

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online betting

online bettingSOME of the bookies already do it in a round about way.

They call it ‘in play' at WilliamHill.com.au
, where punters simply have to turn on their phone's to place their wagers after an event has started.

Now online bookmakers across Australia are uniting in their calls for the legalisation of live betting.

But there are two sides to every story and anti-gambling campaigners and researchers are arguing that would only exacerbate problem gambling.

The country currently adheres to an archaic interactive gambling act, which was formulated in 2001, before the advent of smart phones and tablets that make it as easy as a tap on a touch screen to place a wager.

Punters are either using the William Hill feature – which had been referred to the Federal Police, who decided not to investigate – or heading to offshore bookmakers to place their live bets.

It means Aussie money is going overseas, which would not warn the cockles of home grown bookmakers.

And the Federal Government, through former Premier Barry O'Farrell, is currently probing the issue through a three month Federal fact-finding mission entitled the Review of Internet Gambling Laws.

It is believed the live gambling industry is worth some $2 billion per year – extra revenue for the bookies.

And, through their peak body, the Australian Wagering Council, they are pushing hard for change.

“Those offshore providers lie outside the normal protections that Australian law provides for consumers,” the council's Ian Fletcher told the ABC's 7.30 Report.

“They are companies who really operate in circumstances where they don't pay taxes, where they don't offer responsible gambling programs, they don't to the of Australian sport.”

Sportsbet.com.au is among the bookies who have made a submission to the Federal Government review.

It argues that over $2.2 billion is expected to go off shore, costing the government some $100 million in taxes.

“In a real sense the Interactive Gambling Act is ‘analogue' legislation ill-suited and ill-equipped to deal with the digital age,” the bookie in its submission.

“Consumers now expect to be able to wager on their mobile devices and over the internet but Australian licensed wagering service providers cannot legally provide this in play product.

“Blanket gambling prohibition does not work in the digital age.

“Measures to address the increasing threat of offshore operators without addressing the root of the problem and the fundamental reason why Australians are betting offshore: access to the in play product via mobile devices and the internet – will not achieve the outcome the government is seeking.

“In this context, improving appropriate supply is plainly the best way to cut off popular demand.”

But Monash University gambling researcher Dr Charles Livingstone likened live betting to “having a poke machine in your pocket.”

“I think live betting has the potential to take over from poker machine gambling as the greatest cause of harm from gambling in this country,” Dr Livingstone warned.

“It's like having a pokie machine in your pocket only more insidious because many people get really caught up with their sporting engagement.

“If you're sitting, for example, at a game, you're full of excitement, you might have had a few beers, your mates are alongside you, the incentive to keep betting, and betting amounts of money that you can't afford and to do that continuously over a period of time is likely to be considerable.”

Along with the fears over problem gambling, there are also worries about how legalised live betting would impact on the integrity of sporting events.

Some say the lure of massaging instances of play would become a option for corrupt scammers.

And it is a surprise, but that concern has been echoed by the New South Wales horse racing industry, with chief executive joining the opposition to change.

In fact, Vlandys wants live betting on horse racing banned as well.

“We don't want in play betting in racing because we believe it could cause major integrity concerns,” Mr V'landys said.

“In racing we scrutinise every element of a race.

“We spend millions and millions of dollars to protect the punter to make sure that everyone's on a level playing field.

“In sport you would not know when there's corruption because they don't fix matches they fix elements of the play.”

“As soon as the game starts the odds fluctuate up and down.

“There are some wild swings, if you're able to predict that market movement then there is a lot of money to be made.”

But the bookies have some very powerful support from the major sporting codes.

The AFL, NRL and Cricket Australia have all backed the push.

And the Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports' Malcolm Speed has rubbished claims it could open a can of worms for match fixing.

“I think they (nay sayers) greatly underestimate the ability of the professional sports to monitor integrity issues to deal with integrity issues,” Mr Speed said.

“The processes are in place, the people are in place, sport is dealing with integrity issues very well.”

O'Farrell's probe is expected to be complete in the next week, with recommendations given to the Federal Government by this Friday, December 18.

Our say

You're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't.

The same arguments against live sports betting are being recycled from the broader arguments against sports gambling as a whole.

It will create a of new problem gamblers and open the doors for more corrupt practices during events.

We always advocate for people to enjoy a punt, but to do it within their means. Make sure your obligations are met before you bet.

And we believe match fixing is the scourge of the sports betting industry.

But people who are against it will always be against it.

Will live betting open up a whole new can of worms if it is legalised?

Certainly there will be issues that must be monitored closely by the governing bodies of sports.

But can they deal with it?

You're never going to completely cut out the corruption in gambling in any sport.

But, provided they put in the money and have the right people in place, sporting bodies should do their darndest to keep it in check.

Let's keep our punting dollars on our shores.

Australia, it's time to join the digital age.

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