Bet365 hauled before regulator

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The Northern Territory Racing Commission (NTRC) appear to have taken the first step in an attempt to rein in UK entrant Bet365 and their controversial risk management practises.

Responding to a series of questions posed by OnThePunt, NTRC Chairman Richard O’Sullivan said that the commission has “invited a representative of Bet365 to the next Racing Commission meeting in Darwin to fully explain its risk management practices”. This has come about due to a “considerable number of complaints .. to the practices of Bet365.”

The giant privately-owned firm have adopted a strict policy since opening up shop in Australia – one that appears to simply not tolerate winning clients. Punters have often expressed outrage in online forums and on social media.

Bet365 management use phrases such as “due to the nature of your business” and deeming an account to be “uneconomical” as justification for closing accounts or restricted punters to minuscule wagers. They have also removed bonus bet winnings from accounts that have had restrictions subsequently placed upon them. Actions like this have never been seen in Australia.

The broader issue – fairness to punters

After consultation with bookmakers, the NTRC recently removed the “Minimum Bet Rule” which required licensees to bet punters to win a minimum amount – $1000 on major race meetings for example. They quietly posted a somewhat confusing media release regarding the subject on August 16.

The NTRC stated that the min bet rule was brought in because bookies were often betting punters to win minuscule amounts. But then, due to “technical realities of internet operations”, bookmakers simply closed accounts.

“Since removing the rule, the Commission continues to be disappointed over licensed bookmakers offering to accept minimum wagers or continuation of the practise of closure of accounts,” O’Sullivan told OnThePunt. Well what did he expect would happen?

Let’s remember that the NTRC has as one of its regulatory objectives:

“to promote fairness in the delivery of betting services to the public”

As I’ve stated here before, there is nothing fair about bookies betting only losing clients. The NTRC even suggest that punters who get banned or cut back should wager into the pari-mutuel pool. Are these guys serious?

I’m not pretending that there is an easy solution, but how can a regulator charged with promoting “fairness” totally dump a rule that was specifically designed to introduce fairness? And do so when a couple of foreign-owned corporates start whinging? Where’s the consultation with stakeholders (i.e. the tax-paying punters)?

Maybe one solution could be to lower the minimum bet amount to win $500. That would surely be reasonable. If bookmakers can’t make a profit by betting winners to win $500 and losers to whatever they like, then perhaps they don’t deserve to be in business.

Moving forward, the NTRC offer the following: “It is the belief of the Racing Commission that going forward a commercially realistic balance with respect to alternative available wagering product will be struck to the benefit of the broader gambling public.”

It’s fine to put that in writing, but the NTRC have simply failed to protect the interests of the punter and there is little evidence to say that they intend on doing so in the future, despite what their regulatory objectives may say.

It’s hard to see how the NT Racing Minister can have any confidence in the NTRC at all. But then again, he’d be from a Government that came away with just $2.5 million in tax from $6 billion in bookmaker turnover last financial year. Enough said.

This article was originally published at OnThePunt.com. It has been reproduced with permission.