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.