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

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