Rivalry: Seizing Australian esports betting opportunities

RWA urges caution against ad ban and for action against overseas operators

Responsible Wagering Australia (RWA) member bookmakers are preparing themselves for NSW GambleAware Week, centred around the theme ‘What’s gambling costing you?’.

The trade association and industry standards body, which includes prominent licence holders bet365, Betfair, Entain, Sportsbet, PointsBet and Unibet as members, encouraged ‘all Australians to join in supporting this worthwhile initiative’.

However, the RWA also reiterated long-held concerns by Australian betting stakeholders regarding the threat posed to the regulated industry by unlicensed operators. These sites offer ‘strong inducements’ with ‘no deterrent’ for customers.

Kai Cantwell, RWA CEO, remarked: ‘RWA members are proud to set the industry standard for keeping customers safe, going well beyond the requirements set by governments. The biggest risk to safe gambling in Australia is offshore operators enticing Australians to gamble through illegal promotions. 

“While RWA members and other licensed wagering service providers are working hard to ensure Australia has the safest gambling market in the world, these operators don’t adhere to any Australian laws, evading taxes, and failing to protect customers.”

The RWA cited statistics detailing that the sector makes up 15% of the entire Australian betting market, with this illegal segment valued at over AS$1.63bn at a potential cost to the national economy of $3bn between 2022 and 2027. 

Countering the black market has been a priority of the Australian Media and Communications Authority (ACMA), which effectively acts as Australia’s national federal regulator for online gambling, for some time.

The ACMA has repeatedly blocked the websites of overseas companies to make sure the platforms are not available to Australians. A notable turn of events earlier this year saw the authority contact the Curaçao Ministry of Finance regarding the Australian activities of firms based on the island.

Cantwell continued: ‘Illegal operators have stopped people withdrawing their winnings and have targeted advertising to underage Australians on social media platforms.

“They also represent one of the biggest threats to Australian sport and racing by way of match fixing and race-rigging, with Australian authorities unable to monitor and combat illegal actors.”

Against this backdrop, there is also an ongoing shift in gambling regulation.with New South Wales and Victoria, as well as the federal government, seeking to beef up player protection measures and gambling regulation in general

In NSW – where GambleAware Week will be taking place between 16-22 October, with operators promoting support services via their apps and websites – a government-appointed panel is currently in the process of devising a 2024 roadmap for gambling reform.

Neighbouring Victoria is also upping the ante on player protection, particularly around gaming machines, or ‘pokies’ as the products are colloquially known. However, the most striking changes are likely to occur at the federal level.

The Labor government of Anthony Albanese – Labor is also in power in NSW and Victoria – plans to adopt mandatory customer pre-verification prior to account creation and a ban on credit card payments for gambling.

A legislative inquiry into gambling and its societal impact has recommended a number of other measures, however – with a ban on advertising suggested by some Labor MPs. With GambleAware Week underway in NSW, the RWA has also urged caution on this.

Cantwell elaborated: “Evidence from Denmark, Sweden, and Norway shows that excessive regulation of advertising and products that onshore providers are allowed to offer will drive Australians towards illegal alternatives as Australians don’t know what sites are legal and safe to use.

“RWA members will continue to work with governments and industry to develop balanced policies that keep customers safe and ensure that taxes and fees that onshore operators are required to pay continue to flow back into the Australian economy.”

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