POC’s and MBL’s; it’s a critical time for punters….

It looks likely that the Federal Govt. are finally going to step in and end the long-running, simmering civil war between bookies, punters and regulators in the racing industry. There is great momentum behind a national regulator being formed to adjudicate on advertising, responsible gambling, taxation, and hopefully making the marketplace fair for punters via a minimum bet law (MBL).

Gambling advertising and responsible gambling have both had plenty of attention and their structures nationally are well formed. It’s taxation and the potential for a minimum bet law which is most pressing for punters.

The Dept. of Social Services has commissioned a study into account restrictions and closures. The O’Farrell off-shore gambling review recommended this.

I was interviewed for the study a few weeks back. I was asked a few questions and then given free rein to say what I liked. I kept it pretty simple and said the Fed Govt. need to bring in a nationwide min-bet law on all sports covered by Australian online bookies. I stressed if they don’t do this we need to know why they allow gambling if we can only lose and also that they must warn all punters which events they will be allowed to win on and which they won’t. I went on to remind them that online bookies used to have a min bet law in the Northern Territory until the NT Racing Commission got rid of it behind closed doors simple because the bookies asked them to – and on-course bookies have always had MBL’s, all they need to do is uphold the precedent.

I also said that a national regulator must be formed to fix the fractured state of gambling taxation and regulation. And it is paramount that a punter be placed on the board of the newly formed national regulator. We are the drivers of the industry, yet we have the most limited voice.

I poked around a bit at the interviewer to see what they thought government might do. They didn’t say a lot but did say they had been inundated with punters wanting to express their view – however hadn’t been able to speak to any bookies as they had all rejected the chance to participate in an interview. I think this is a big mistake by the bookies and will play strongly into our favour. Interestingly they did say they had spoken to some of the sporting bodies in Australia. The sporting codes have a lot to answer for; they continuously and sanctimoniously tell us all they are socially aware and responsible yet have their heads jammed in the sand when it comes to the bookies practices in Australia. They have to do better.

The findings of the study will be presented to the government on June 30. The findings won’t be made public which is frustrating and an exact date of when we will be informed of what the government intend to do about the issue is also unknown. However, it’s very positive that they are at least looking into it and we will finally get some answers.

The looming point of consumption tax (POC) that kicks off in SA on July 1 has the potential to be the next biggest issue for punters. It is the most ill-conceived cash-grab tax I have ever seen. It’s the bookies own fault it is being brought in – due to them hiding in the NT for so long – however I am on their side on this one. From July 1 bookies  with clients based in SA will be paying race field fees, 10% GST (to the Fed Govt.) on what they win off these clients, and then will pay 15% of the net amount they win off these clients to the SA Govt. The big problem with the new tax is that the bookies already pay a POC tax in the form of GST. Sportsbet paid $90 million in product fees and GST on $330 million of revenue (before all other business related expenses) in FY 15/16 – I think they pay enough tax. The SA Govt. in their propaganda supporting the tax claim that Sportsbet paid $550,000 in tax to NT which is true, but they fail to mention the $10’s of millions they pay in GST. They also sight the POC Tax on bookies which has been implemented in England as another reason why it should be brought in in SA but again they fail to say that bookies in England do not pay VAT (their GST). There is no problem with a state based POC tax and 15% is probably fair, but the GST has to abolished for bookies then, you can’t double dip. I saw an article stating that the Fed Govt. are mooting handing over the GST they collect to the states in lieu of states unilaterally introducing POC taxes.

I think the majority of bookies will cop the SA POC tax for a short while until a fairer system is worked out. However if more states bring it in without GST relief the gambling markets will start to freeze up as bookies start to stop betting in states with POC tax. This whole POC situation is the archetype of why we need a national regulator. The massive failings of the SA POC would be clearly highlighted by a national regulator where the interests of all sides of the industry are represented.

I still am very determined to see a MBL introduced in SA and WA and have been applying pressure where I can but they don’t seem to care. I can understand that SA are a little hamstrung by the POC coming in and it isn’t a great time to be telling the bookies that a MBL is coming in as well. WA however are being just plain lazy. Victoria and NSW racing is booming and is really engaging with us; the generation next. If SA and WA want to continue to be the enemy of innovation it’s disappointing but at least there is plenty for us to focus on in NSW, Victoria and now Queensland. I will send SA and WA a link to this article to remind them.

The growing disconnect between Racing Queensland and punters

I wrote to Racing Queensland (RQ) CEO Dr. Eliot Forbes when he was CEO of Tasmanian Racing and asked him what he thought of introducing a minimum bet limit in Tasmania. I was surprised but appreciative of his honesty when he said that Tasmanian Racing would not be introducing a minimum bet limit as they were too reliant on corporate bookmaker sponsorship and advertising – and they could not risk that revenue by upsetting corporate bookies. He is now CEO of Racing Queensland and he has carried that attitude with him to the the much larger Queensland Racing market.

Worse than this unethical and anti competitive attitude is his, and Racing Queensland’s, complete lack of listening to, and engaging with their best customers; the punter. I  recently wrote to Dr. Forbes again asking him what RQ would be doing now that both Racing NSW and Racing Victoria had both introduced minimum bet limits. I posted it on twitter with his and Queensland Racing Minister Grace Grace’s twitter handles attached. It got a lot of traction. You would think that they might take notice of this and engage with me or other punters about the issue – however I was simply told RQ and Dr. Forbes would not debate commercial policy on social media and therefore they would not give me (or any other punter) and further information on the matter. I also wrote Grace Grace and asked her opinion on RQ introducing a minimum bet limit. I have never received a response and I have followed up with her office 3 times requesting a response, but still haven’t got one.

Frustrated by their stonewalling I independently contacted an RQ board member (all participant groups except for the punter is represented on the RQ board) and asked to have their ear for 10 minutes to tell them what it’s like to be a punter in today’s environment. They said they were only too happy to talk to me but a few days later cancelled on me because they were told that management had already dealt with punters on the issue. I tried to contact Radio Tab to be able to go on one of their programs and stoke some debate about introducing a minimum bet limit. After many tries and no one interested I gave up on Radio Tab as well.

In my experiences advocating for a minimum bet limit in NSW and Victoria I have always been able to have my voice heard, and so have many other punters. Anyone can approach Bernard Saundry or Peter V’Landys and if you’re patient enough they will give you some time to tell them how you feel. It seems that Dr. Forbes couldn’t care less though, and this is even more ironic considering the difficult state RQ finds itself in. The Fair Wagering movement I started has 2,000 followers on twitter and has attracted 40,000 visitors to its website – significant numbers. As an individual I am very insignificant and but the movement I represent is not and it cannot be ignored. It mostly represents the next generation of punters who RQ are so dependent on if they are going to have any hope of growing and becoming as strong as Racing NSW and Racing Victoria.

Nothing repulses me more than the unethical, talentless, predatory bookmaking that took hold here over the last decade. It has yielded somewhat but Dr. Forbes and RQ have endorsed it and told us to invest elsewhere. RQ said in their media release about a minimum bet introduction that it is legislative hurdles that are stopping its introduction. If this is the case I want to see evidence that have consulted with Minister Grace about introducing a minimum bet limit and she has told them that they can’t. But there won’t be any evidence of that because if Dr. Forbes did approach the Queensland Govt. about introducing a min bet limit they would have said we’ll legislate anything you think is the right move, just like what happened in NSW and Victoria.

I think we should all keep campaigning for a minimum bet limit in Queensland for another year because Queensland racing is too exciting and means too much to all of us to be shut out of just yet. But if in a year RQ still won’t act ethically instead of financially and give the punter a fair go in the market place, we should all give up on Queensland racing and bet on racing in NSW and Victoria – at least there we are wanted and respected.

Response from Minister Tudge

Just wanted to update those that didn’t see through social media that Minister Tudge took the time to reply to my email(s). I’m trying to organise a meeting with Minister Tudge and hopefully Minister Xenophon to represent all punters in Australia with regards to minimum bet laws in sport.

If you would like to stay in touch with how things progress, please follow me on Twitter @lukeamac. Your support is not only appreciated, but required. Thanks and stay tuned for further updates.

Kind Regards,

Luke MacDonald

Capture.PNG

Kingsley Bartholomew’s responses to RVL minimum bet survey

6. Please provide your feedback on a potential MBL for all WSPs internet and telephone betting (any one Win, Win/Place or Each-way bet to lose $1,000; any one Place bet to lose $500)

I believe these limits are too low for Metropolitan racing. On course rails bookmakers are currently required to bet to win $5000 on Saturdays and $3000 on Wednesdays. The current limits are the lowest since I entered the industry in 1993. How can the racing industry expect to attract both continued and new professional investment from punters/syndicates with such low turnover limits being introduced ? WSP’s should be required to match the $3000 limit that is being proposed for on course bookmakers for all Metropolitan racing

7. Please provide your feedback on a potential MBL for Victorian Bookmakers (on-course face to face) – Metropolitan Rails (any one Win, Win/Place or Each-way bet to lose $3,000; any one Place bet to lose $1,500)

With the diminishing number of oncourse bookmakers and turnover I see the $3000 limit being the right balance. I personally would like it to remain higher but can understand the need to drop back to $3000 for Saturday racing, however a $5000 limit still should apply for carnival racing.

8. Please provide your feedback on a potential MBL for Victorian Bookmakers (on-course face to face) – Other metropolitan areas and all areas at country meetings (any one Win, Win/Place or Each-way bet to lose $1,000; any one Place bet to lose $500)

Agree with a $1000 limit

Probable exclusions:

9. Exclusion – Multi’s where the bet is not exclusively constituted on VTR product

Agree

10. Exclusion – All bets where both parties to a betting transaction are either WSPs, On-course Bookmakers or a combination of both

Disagree. Both WSP’s and on course bookmakers should have enough confidence in the prices that they display to take bets from all parties, whether it be a punter or fellow bookmaker. The whole idea of excluding anyone wishing to wager makes the marketplace inactive, dull and boring which leads to a higher percentage by bookmakers, decreased turnover and an increased lack of interest by professional punters. Bookmakers betting back with one another creates a surprising amount of market stimulation and turnover. The art and skill of trading by WSP’s has been very sadly lost in the modern day marketplace. I would love today’s risk managers to sit down with legendary bookmakers like Mark Read or Dominic Beirne. These two men were not only fearless in the betting ring but understood the need to trade money in order to profit. They lived and died by their own opinion. Racing jurisdictions make it far too easy nowadays for WSP’s to hide behind a call centre in Darwin treating Racing’s customers as they like.

11. Exclusion – Punters betting on credit

Disagree. Just an excuse for bookmakers not to bet. No one is forcing them to extend credit to a client if they don’t want to.

12. Exclusion – Exchange bets

Agree

13. Exclusion – Retail cash betting

Disagree. TABCORP will hide behind this rule to continue the shameful act of reducing limits on fixed odds betting to virtually $0 in agencies where they feel a professional punter is betting. This is a blight on the industry and should not be allowed. TABCORP should be working to put better systems in place to ensure their risk limits are managed more appropriately.

14. Excluded customer – Punters who act as commission agents

Disagree. WSP’s will hide behind this rule. Once again bookmakers should have the confidence to accept bets from all parties. It is very hard to prove who is a commission agent and who is not. Who makes the final decision ?

15. Excluded customer – Customers who have established accounts who have not yet completed the identification and verification requirements

Agree, as long as the ID and verification requirements are reasonable. William Hill for example require tax returns, bank statements, phone records etc. This is a complete invasion of privacy and obviously just another way a WSP is trying to get around doing what their core business is – BETTING.

16. Excluded customer – Customers whose accounts have previously been closed by WSPs for integrity concerns/regulatory issues etc.

Agree, as long as it is legitimate.

17. Commencement of MBL – on the day of the relevant race commencing 30 minutes prior to the Advertised Start Time (AST) for each particular race

Disagree. Completely inadequate and to be honest makes me embarrassed to be part of the industry in Australia. What gives the WSP’s the right to be able to frame their markets days in advance of a race and then have no obligation to have to accept a bet ? As punters you are asking us to invest our time and money in to creating POSSIBLE money making strategies so we can turn money over, yet you want us to wait 30 mins before a race before we can invest. Nobody is making the WSP’s frame a market prior to 30 mins out from the race. This is their choice. WSP’s are framing their markets days in advance, rejecting bets from punters who they deem to be smart and adjusting their markets accordingly. 30 mins out from a race, when the on course bookmakers frame their opening market, the prices have already been set for them in essence by the ‘smart’ punters who couldn’t get the set for a decent amount of money. As I said before, no one is forcing WSP’s to put their prices up prior to the 30 min mark and to be honest I think the marketplace would be better off if they didn’t.

18. Cessation of MBL – 2 minutes prior to the AST for each particular race

Disagree. This is even more embarrassing than the 30 min rule. If a WSP is too afraid to lay a horse to lose $1000 in the last 2 mins of betting then they should hand in their licence straight away. No serious professional money will exist in the fixed odds market place in the years to come if these petty rules are introduced. Open the marketplace up and let everyone bet.

19. Number of MBL transactions with each eligible customer limited to one betting transaction per runner in each race

Disagree. Why shouldn’t I be able to back them same horse twice at a different price. If I take $5 a horse the WSP can turn it in to $1.01 if they choose to. Another petty restriction that protects bookmakers. It should be the bookmakers responsibility to mange their risk limits efficiently

20. Complaints and enforcement process – online submission to RV inclusive of a declaration that the complaint does not relate to one of the exemptions

My personal experience with Racing NSW’s MBL has been very positive. William Hill and Classicbet are the only two corporates that I am still not able to trade with on NSW racing.

21. Racing Victoria invites respondents to provide comments on the issues raised in the MBL consultation paper

In my opinion the WSP’s have had too much influence on the proposed limits and restrictions in RV’s MBL. If RV are serious about protecting punters serious changes need to be made to the proposed MBL. ‘Closed’ on course betting rings (there were only 6 on course rails bookmakers at Caulfield on Saturday), higher bookmaker percentage due to RV’s taxation policy, decreasing pari-mutual pools and the current practices of many of the WSP’s make professional punting in Australia an extremely unattractive option. Very few punting organisations have an on course presence anymore and the major syndicates are completely disillusioned with the lack of volume in the tote pools in Australia as TABCORP continue to focus on their extremely profitable fixed odds products. I applaud RV for announcing the introduction of a MBL, but if you do not put THE PUNTER, racing’s number one funder first, then you may as well not introduce it at all.

Richard Irvine’s response to RVL minimum bet survey

6. Please provide your feedback on a potential MBL for all WSPs internet and telephone betting (any one Win, Win/Place or Each-way bet to lose $1,000; any one Place bet to lose $500):   $1,000 on non-metro meeting seems fair but all bookmakers with turnover over $5 million a year should have to lay horses to lose $2,000 on metro racing. The bookmakers with $5 million plus turnover all have large holds – some massive, they can easily handle 2k metro limits.

7. Please provide your feedback on a potential MBL for Victorian Bookmakers (on-course face to face) – Metropolitan Rails (any one Win, Win/Place or Each-way bet to lose $3,000; any one Place bet to lose $1,500):   Considering that the on-course ring is sadly shrinking rapidly I feel that this is fair enough and gives on-course bookies a better opportunity to manage their books.

8. Please provide your feedback on a potential MBL for Victorian Bookmakers (on-course face to face) – Other metropolitan areas and all areas at country meetings (any one Win, Win/Place or Each-way bet to lose $1,000; any one Place bet to lose $500):   Considering that the on-course ring is sadly shrinking rapidly I feel that this is fair enough and gives on-course bookies a better opportunity to manage their books.

Probable exclusions:

9. Exclusion – Multi’s where the bet is not exclusively constituted on VTR product:    Yes.

10. Exclusion – All bets where both parties to a betting transaction are either WSPs, On-course Bookmakers or a combination of both:    No. Bookmakers should be allowed to bet with each other. The one bet per horse at the price rule will solve the problem of bookies following other punters. Corporate bookies have been betting with on course bookies for years so there is no need to change the dynamic.  

11. Exclusion – Punters betting on credit:    This should be left open to the discretion of the bookmaker. But if they do not wish to offer credit to a punter then yes, the punter must be in credit in their account.

12. Exclusion – Exchange bets:    Yes.

13. Exclusion – Retail cash betting:    Yes.

14. Excluded customer – Punters who act as commission agents:    No. Far too grey area and allows bookmakers to avoid MBL by claiming someone is a commission agent.

15. Excluded customer – Customers who have established accounts who have not yet completed the identification and verification requirements:    No. Bookmakers will use this to get around MBL. What rules they have around betting before identification and verification requirements should be the same for all punters.

16. Excluded customer – Customers whose accounts have previously been closed by WSPs for integrity concerns/regulatory issues etc.:    Yes, but RVL must investigate these situations and find real evidence of integrity concerns. It’s another grey area where bookmakers will abuse the rule to avoid MBL.

17. Commencement of MBL – on the day of the relevant race commencing 30 minutes prior to the Advertised Start Time (AST) for each particular race:    NO! This would be a diabolical result for punters as we would miss out on so much value as the market moves while we’re banned from it. It goes completely against the RNSW rules (which you quote as the benchmark) of 9am on race day and 2pm on night meetings – this rule has worked well and even though it still disadvantages punters we have accepted it. Under the RNSW rule bookmakers still have the advantage of seeing how the market moves in previous days (many bookmakers have prices up 1,2 or 3 days before a race) before they are obliged to bet punters from 9am. This price discovery that bookmakers have is a real disadvantage to punters but we accept that we will always be disadvantaged – but this rule you put forward is insulting and would instantly end all the good will that was created when you announced your MBL plan. The fury that has been directed towards you and corporate bookmakers for over 5 years now would continue and we would reject entirely that you have listened to your customers and introduced a MBL.

Online bookmakers are highly sophisticated these days and the majority are linked up to Dynamic Race Odds or other odds comparison sites and instantly firm horses when they firm with another bookie. They can handle their liabilities with ease – they must bet all punters from 9 am up until jump time.

18. Cessation of MBL – 2 minutes prior to the AST for each particular race:    NO! Just as bad as the proposed rule above. The market moves the most in the last 2 minutes. Betfair kicks in and bookies start to push horses they are keen to lay. A horse that might be $2.50 with bookmakers with 2 mins to go can easily drift out to $3.50 with bookies in the 2 mins to jump time. Locking out some punters during this time is deeply unfair. Bookmakers only have to bet one person at the price they display which protects them from getting too large a liability. Any bookie that tells you otherwise is lying to suit their own lazy bookmaking.

19. Number of MBL transactions with each eligible customer limited to one betting transaction per runner in each race:    Yes. This is unfair to punters as a bookmaker who puts a price up should be willing to lay it to anyone – however, considering that we have to cede some ground we can accept this rule.

20. Complaints and enforcement process – online submission to RV inclusive of a declaration that the complaint does not relate to one of the exemptions:   Yes, however Tom Waterhouse as CEO of William Hill has been dishonest and evasive in his obsession with disobeying RNSW min bet law. His latest move is to deceptively claim that he suspects punters that he doesn’t want betting with him are terrorists or or organised crime figures and he has to report their financial activities to Austrac. He demands 3 years worth of incredibly detailed financial records off punters. No punter should have to give him that and many punters don’t even have the records he requires so have no hope of meeting them. Please be ready for him and his legal team as the do everything to avoid your authority. ClassicBet have also seemed to follow his lead.

21. Racing Victoria invites respondents to provide comments on the issues raised in the MBL consultation paper:    Victorian racing is the best gambling market in the world. We as punters are desperate to stay involved. At the least you must follow RNSW min bet laws – they are working very well for both punters and bookies. What you have proposed here is a watered down version. We deserve, and with respect, demand better. The bookies already have so much advantage. Many thanks for introducing a min bet limit and your consultative approach.

Betting in NRL – Open letter to Mr Todd Greenberg

Dear Mr Todd Greenberg,

As CEO of the NRL are you aware that many corporate bookmakers (some of which are your commercial partners) close or restrict accounts of winning gamblers/ gamblers who do not lose enough? I’m of the belief that the most important stakeholder in your game is the supporting public, a considerable amount of your supporters would place a bet on your sport throughout the season. Protection of your supporters when they have a wager on your sport would be very high on your agenda I’m sure.

A ‘gamble’ is defined as ‘to stake or risk money, or anything of value, on the outcome of something involving chance’. The problem we have when wagering on your sport is there is no chance element, if you win (amounts of bets and time vary), your account can be immediately limited or closed. There is only one side of the coin you can be on long term and that’s the losing side. This issue is the basis for many involving wagering in your sport; lack of clarity around identities gambling, offshore gambling, untraceable bets, match/ spot fixing and huge exploitation of problem gamblers by bookmakers here in Australia.

Clearly with this in mind, the NRL could not condone this behaviour, the question is, what will the NRL do about this issue?

Please see the accompanying letter that I sent to Social Services Minister Alan Trudge.

Of the two options contained, which would the NRL support?

Gambling on sport is a big community issue now and the NRL must take corporate bookmakers conduct seriously. I look forward to your response.

Many thanks,

Luke MacDonald

Sports betting – Open letter to Alan Tudge MP

Hi Mr Alan Tudge,

My name is Luke MacDonald from the Gold Coast. 5 years or so ago I was enticed into gambling on Australian sport by all the advertising that accompanied it.

Since then I have learned that the online sports gambling industry in Australia is for the most part a fraud and the majority of Australian bookmakers do not allow bettors the opportunity to win money. Everyone rightfully assumes a bookmaker is supposed to offer people the chance to win money.

I was heartened to hear that you and your Government accepted the recommendation of Barry O’Farrell’s recent review into online gambling to look into account closures and restrictions.

Your Government needs to decide if online sports gambling is a financial market place, or simply a business where bookmakers offer punters a service or product.

If you decide it is a financial market you need to introduce a nationwide minimum bet policy akin to what Racing NSW and Racing Victoria have done with their racing product in the jurisdictions they oversee. Financial markets in Australia are regulated to be fair to both sides of the transaction, and hence the same must apply to online sports gambling markets. Presently sports bettors have no rights and are treated appallingly. It should be noted that all on course gambling rings in Australia have always carried minimum bet obligations.

If you decide that bookmakers are simply carrying on a business – and deserve the same protections all businesses get under the Competition and Consumer Act – you must make online bookmakers (who employ client management techniques to ban or restrict winning gamblers/ gamblers who do not lose enough) warn their clients of what they face when betting with them. These bookmakers do not offer their clientele the chance to win money, it is imperative that anyone who signs up to these sites understands this.

The warning needs to be in plain black and white English, not buried in a whole lot of terms and conditions and state the following; “we will close or restrict your account if you win or don’t lose enough”. If account holders see this, acknowledge they understand the situation and are happy to keep betting, then that’s fine. But what cannot happen is online bookmakers taking over our sporting culture, while seeking to exploit losing gamblers and banning anyone who wins. Our community doesn’t need another poker machine industry.

Which of the options will you and your Government take?

Many thanks,

Luke MacDonald