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

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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

A not so Classic experience

This one came across the Fair Wagering Australia desk yesterday.

A punter writes:

——————-

My ire has been raised and I’m in the mood for a rant!

Following is the complete story of my experience with NSW regulated online “bookmaker” ClassicBet.com.au who label themselves as “Australia’s first premium betting agency”.

I first became aware of their existence through a cold call offering me a generous bonus to sign up and bet with them.

I monitored the site for few days and saw very little to excite me. Vanilla odds for sports didn’t turn me on. But given that I have so few options available to me I thought perhaps it won’t hurt to give them a try. And the bonus offer of $1,000 in free bets for a $2,000 deposit with x3 turnover was sufficiently enticing.

Their site boasts the following noble statements:

“ClassicBet strongly supports the ‘Ideals and Objectives’ as set out by the Australian Bookmakers Association … We are particularly committed to demonstrating responsibility and providing excellent service”.

(Subsequent enquiries have found that they are not members of the ABA, though they have applied for membership.)

“A premium level of service with no equal. Every client is provided a client manager who will be available to assist you in any way possible”.

(I’m still waiting to be advised of who my client manager is/was or receive any contact from him/her, or assistance from anybody.)

Frankly I fully expected that my stay would be short as I just “knew” that they’d close my account before too long. But I didn’t expect it quite so soon and with the consequences which followed.

So, I proceeded to open an account and made a $2,000 deposit. I went straight into action in order to establish the required turnover and placed a couple of bets on the footy. As luck would have it, both lost and my account balance was back to $0!

Time to place a bonus (free) bet. I found a golfer at somewhat close to competitive odds and asked for a bet on him. But I was then informed (contrary to what I’d previously been told) that bonus bets can be placed on racing only. No sports!

So, I went to check the bonus bet rules published on the site and found:

“a) For any promotion where bonus bets are received, the corresponding deposit must be turned over three times, at odds of $1.50 or greater before a withdrawal can be processed.
b) Bonus bets can be placed in any amount from 1 to 500 on any event, including multis and exotics.”

Protest lodged but dismissed.

That dimmed whatever enthusiasm I’d had for the site so it was a couple of weeks before I revisited and made a $600 deposit specifically to place a footy bet for $585 on a game which was to be played the following day.

I also spotted a decent price for a horse (7.50) which I fancied and asked for a $200 free bet on it. The response received was “Rejected (odds changed)” and it was promptly turned down to 5.00.

Yet notwithstanding that the bet had been rejected my bonus bets balance was reduced by $200!

Undaunted, I went in again and requested another $200 free bet at ‘best tote + SP’. Finally, a free bet accepted! The horse won at 3.5 and I was credited with winnings of $500.

Let’s try another! I asked for a free bet of $200 at ‘best tote + SP’. This time the response received read: “Rejected (account closed)”!

Yep, that’s right, I had three sports bets for two losses ($2,000) and one pending ($585) and a single (free) racing bet which won me $500. And that was the point at which (according to subsequent advice) they deemed my account to “not be recreational”.

Now, it really comes as no surprise to have yet another account closed but frankly I didn’t expect it quite so soon and in such circumstances.

I accept that they do have the legal (though not moral) “right” to do that. But what I don’t accept is that they have any right to deny me the remaining $800 of free bets which was a significant condition of my joining and depositing $2,000.

Further, in correspondence with Mr Ryan Kay of ClassicBet, he insisted that I had used up $600 of my free bets which of course is nonsense as they accepted only $200 and rejected $400 of my requests. I have a screenshot to prove it.

Having failed in my demand for them to honour their commitment to me I forwarded a formal complaint to the NSW OLGR.

I was suitably impressed with the OLGR’s prompt response to my complaint.

But not so impressed with their finding that ClassicBet “has not breached the Rules or Legislation” quoting: “3.1.2 Discretion of sports bookmaker. (c) A sports bookmaker is under no obligation to accept any wager from any customer or prospective customer”, and

“3.5.6 Internet betting access may be denied without notice
The sports bookmaker may cease to provide access to a customer to
the web site of the sports bookmaker to place bets via the Internet at
anytime. This may be done without notice to the customer.”

At this point I make the observation that I wasn’t denied any sports bets, only racing bets, so I’m not sure what relevance quoting that legislation has.

They then went on to refer to ClassicBet’s own terms and conditions, copying and pasting those pertaining to bonus bets:

“9. Bonus Bets
a) For any promotion where bonus bets are received, the corresponding deposit must be turned over three times, at odds of $1.50 or greater before a withdrawal can be processed.
b) Bonus bets can be placed in any amount from 1 to 500 on racing events (free bets cannot be used on sports or multis unless specified by client manager). Bonus bets are subject to the rules in Section 9. on the Acceptance of Bets.
c) Rules may vary on some promotions and any variance shall be displayed on the promotion
d) If after opening an account, clients are provided bonus bets without making a deposit, before they make any withdrawal, they must deposit at least an equal amount and turnover the deposit amount three times (after making the deposit).
e) Referral promotion. The referring client will be provided with referral bonus once the referral has deposited at least $200 and has turnover of at least $600 (at odds greater than $1.50.
f) Bonus bets are provided at the discretion of the Bookmaker and can be held back or withdrawn at any time.”

Note the differences and additions to the rules which I quoted previously?

Those changes were made only after I complained. They are not the rules which were on the site when I joined and by which our contract should be bound. I have a screenshot which proves it.

And further:

“10. Placement and the Acceptance of Bets
a) All bets on an Account are considered to be placed and received in the State of NSW, Australia.
b) Classicbet reserves the right at any time to refuse any bet or part of a bet without providing a reason or advance notification. The circumstances in which we may refuse a Client’s bet include but are not limited to:
i) Client is or may be less than 18 years of age;
ii) Client is or may be betting on behalf of a person who is less than 18 years of age;
iii) Client is or may be in breach of these Rules;
iv) Client is or may be in breach of any applicable law; or
v) Client’s proposed bet would present an unacceptable liability risk to our business. Whether there is an unacceptable liability risk to us for the purpose of this Rule is at Classicbet’s discretion.”
I most certainly wasn’t in breach of clauses i) through iv) and haven’t been accused of being so, so the conclusion therefore is that my request for a $200 free bet on a horse which was at less than 3.00 in the market represented an “unacceptable liability risk” to ClassicBet!

On a more positive note, ClassicBet did promptly pay me the balance of my account which included a dividend of $1,111.15 on the footy bet which was pending at the time they closed my account.

Additional observations I’d like to make about this experience:

1. I am advised that, unlike the TAB in NSW, bookmakers are not obliged to lay clients a horse for at least $1,500 but even if they were, there is nothing stopping a bookmaker from avoiding that obligation by simply terminating his account.

2. I have no legal qualification but in 40+ years business experience I’ve picked up a few things, one of which is my understanding that notwithstanding the strict wording of terms and conditions, the exercise of discretionary provisions requires adherence to principles of FAIRNESS.

3. Are regulators concerned only with the letter of the law? Are they not responsible for the protection of consumers and monitoring the ethics of licensed persons?

4. It is quite clear that punters in Australia have very little opportunity to obtain justice in disputes with bookmakers. The State regulators are next to useless, almost always siding with the bookmakers who effectively fund them. And for some incomprehensible reason I am repeatedly advised by Fair Trading offices that they have no jurisdiction in gambling related cases! Why ever not?

End of rant (for the time being).

Racing VIC drop a bomb

Racing Victoria has set the cat among the pigeons today with their announcement of a new set of product fees for betting on Victorian Racing product, all to take effect in just over six weeks.

Instead of the current 1.5-2% turnover rate, the new scenario would see 1.5-3% turnover or 15-30% of gross revenue – whichever is greater. Racing Victoria had previously supported the turnover model fought so hard for by Racing NSW in its court battle with the corporates.

Interestingly, it is to be applied on a per meeting basis, which does seem unfair. i.e. If a Corporate turnovers $1 million on Melbourne Cup day and wins $300,000 they pay $90,000 to RVL – they then back up on Oaks Day and turnover $1 million again and lose $300,000 they pay RVL $30,000. They’re square for the 2 days but they’ve paid RVL $120,000. If they’d broke square both days they would have paid RVL only $60,000. Corporates and on-course bookies have a right to be upset about that.

Australia’s biggest operator TABCORP, were supporting Racing NSW in it’s corporate battle. Now that the Victorian racing authority has changed tact with a gross revenue model, TABCORP won’t escape this money grab. They have already announced a $4 million earnings hit for the next financial year.

So what does in mean for punters and the continuing battle for fairness in the Australian wagering landscape?

It’s quite difficult to get an accurate idea, but you can bet that it will be the punters who in one way or another will end up the losers.

Foreign corporate raiders are hardly going to settle for a lower return on their investment here – and the local giants TABCORP and Tatts have shareholders to answer to and revenue targets that won’t be reduced.

Further restrictions and account closures on winning punters will be inevitable. Perhaps we will even see more restrictions on punters who only lose 1-5% of their money. That makes it more important than ever that regulators such as the Northern Territory Racing Commission finally stand up and do something about fairness.

The Australian (or is it European?) Wagering Council’s (AWC) response smacks of hypocrisy as usual. Firstly, let’s acknowledge that the AWC is made up of Bet365 (UK), Sportingbet (UK), Ladbrokes (UK), Paddy Power (Ireland) and Unibet (Euro). There isn’t too much “Australian” about it – it’s a lobby group for foreign interests.

The soon (if not already) to be 100% Crown-owned exchange Betfair are also a member. We’re not quite sure why as in the past they have even disassociated themselves with AWC statements. (Mind you, this decision does have a huge impact on their business also – could they dump Australian racing altogether?)

Anyway, the main argument put forward by the AWC is about integrity and the risk that less competitive prices will lead to a rise in “illegal and offshore betting”.

This may well be the case, but how convenient is the argument now?

Closing winner’s accounts, restricting punters to $1 bets, advising punters that they are “uneconomical” because they have the temerity to win – all factors that drive punters offshore or underground. Integrity doesn’t seem to be an issue when punters are the ones being disadvantaged through a money grab.

Perhaps racing needs to sort out its sustainability issues on its own. Is there too much racing? The answer is most certainly yes.

You can’t help but feel this new fee structure is aimed at getting more of a return for the industry from corporates betting tote odds. Maybe restricting Corporates to only being allowed to bet fixed price and charging them a 1% turnover tax and then 2% turnover tax on Group 1 racing days would be advantageous to all.

If this were adopted, racing regulators and the Tab would have to look seriously at dropping tote pool take-out rates. They’d be loathe to but they are staring down the sports betting juggernaut that charges its customer on average 13% less than racing.

It’s a fine balance between having enough money to sustain a healthy racing industry and then starting to drive punters away to lower margin sports betting.

One thing is for sure, bookies will be passing on most, if not all of the added cost to punters through greater risk-management. Winning will get a lot harder – if it wasn’t hard enough already. If it becomes too hard to have a win, then racing and its direct participants will be the ultimate losers.

TABCORP and the ‘genuine (commercially viable) customer’

Fair Wagering has been handed an extraordinary document that lifts the lid on Australia’s biggest wagering operator’s attempts to severely restrict winning punters at TAB retail outlets.

It looks as though Tabcorp recently sent the document out to agents on its 2600-strong retail network across New South Wales and Victoria. The missive appears to be an attempt to placate agents in at least 100 TAB’s who have reported plunging commissions as a result of restrictions placed on the size of all bets, even if just one punter is winning.

Tabcorp referred to “expanded risk management” in their fixed odds division at a recent mid-year presentation – we now know what it means for punters, and it ain’t pretty.

Tabcorp have officially joined the scourge that has become rife within the Australian corporate bookmaking community.

They are no longer bookies and are simply accountants who wish to manage money (bets) from mug punters.

Because all punters are “mugs” and have trouble with even basic English, we at FWA have paraphrased some of the key points in Tabcorp’s “Fixed Odds Liability Q&A” to help you to better understand corporate language.

If you want to read it for yourself, here it is. Otherwise, allow us.

From Tabcorp document, "Fixed Odds Liability Q & A"

From Tabcorp document, “Fixed Odds Liability Q&A”

i.e. We drove all winning punters off our website by rejecting any bets that didn’t suit us. Don’t get too excited if they roll up to your agency ready to bet big, turnover lots and help your business.

As soon as one of our bookmakers (accountants) get a whiff that a winning punter is betting in a TAB agency, we’ll flick a switch and shut the agency down. No 10 second reset or phone call will help.

From Tabcorp document, “Fixed Odds Liability Q&A”

i.e. If we have to manage all 2600, we will. The winning punters that we are trying to get rid of have thankfully only made it to 100 agencies so far.

From Tabcorp document, “Fixed Odds Liability Q&A”

i.e. VERY IMPORTANT POINT. Only losers are “genuine customers”. We don’t want winning punters getting in the way of our profits. If you spot a winning punter (non-genuine customer) in your agency, stay calm; alert us, we’re here to help.

From Tabcorp document, "Fixed Odds Liability Q&A"

From Tabcorp document, “Fixed Odds Liability Q&A”

i.e. If it’s 6pm on a Friday night and there are only two punters in your agency having $1 mystery trifectas and a winning punter (non-genuine customer) walks in wishing to bet big and hard with your turnover incentivised agency, DO NOT BET THEM. We at headquarters make a gross profit of $10 million a week off fixed odds bets. That’s not enough, we want more!

Don’t worry about your own little business, that’ll sort itself out in the long term, sorta, kinda??!!

———-

We are informed that the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing are looking into Tabcorp’s new fixed odds management procedures. We’ll forward this onto them.

Tabcorp, through tab.com.au, retail outlets, Luxbet and Sky Racing are the undisputed driver of the racing industry. They need to, and are entitled to be profitable. But who is betting to lose? We all need to at least know that one day maybe we can be winners. If this new style of management becomes the norm, we will all only ever be losers. Tabcorp can take us for granted at its own peril.

Perhaps there should be a warning whenever you enter a TAB outlet in New South Wales or Victoria – ‘WARNING: GENUINE CUSTOMERS ONLY. BETTING TO WIN WILL NOT BE TOLERATED.’

—————

Please Note: The author of this article has absolutely no association with Sydney rails bookmaker David Dwyer.

UPDATE

It’s been a while since we posted, so here’s a quick run down on where we’re at in our quest to bring back fairness to sports and race wagering in Australia.

Northern Territory

Consistent with recent posts, we are still getting no help whatsoever from the Northern Territory Racing Commission (NTRC) or the Northern Territory Government.

This is the regulatory authority that in mid-2013 removed the rule requiring bookmakers to bet all punters to win a minimum amount ($1000) on racing.

We put the following to the Northern Territory Minister for Business, David Tollner:

  • “Are you planing to make any changes to the way the NTRC operates and how it oversees the regulation of bookmakers in the NT? We are particularly referring to one of the objects of the NT Racing and Betting act: “(c) to promote fairness, integrity and efficiency in the operations of persons engaged in racing and betting in the Territory”.”

He responded:

  • “I do not wish to interfere with their (NTRC’s) independence” He then goes on to note a VCAT case where it was found that “a bookmaker cannot be compelled to accept a wager from a person” before he concluded that: “In essence, each wager is a contract and no person can be compelled to contract with another. This fully supports the Racing Commission’s stance.”

Bookmakers licensed by the Northern Territory Government are turning over close to $6 billion annually with conservative profit estimates of $400 million. Last financial year they paid just $2.4 million in tax to the NT Government through a levy on gross wagering profits, capped at $250,000 per bookmaker.

So why are the NT Government so keen to bow down to these highly profitable foreign-owned bookmaking firms given that tax receipts are so low? We have been led to believe it has a lot to do with Federal GST rebates. Huge rebates on the GST bookmakers pay. If anyone can contribute on this issue, let us know.

Code of Conduct 

Rich has met with and continues to meet with several significant stakeholders including bookmakers, direct racing participants and administrators, in an effort to have our proposed Code of Conduct accepted.

At least ONE bookmaker has indicated that they are willing to sign off on the Code of Conduct straight away.

Other conversations are ongoing and we will await further responses in the next few weeks.

Integrity

Integrity continues to be a huge issue facing sports and racing bodies. Banning winning punters here drives a considerable amount of money offshore to a multitude of bookmakers including Pinnacle and SBOBet, where information sharing agreements with Australian sports and racing bodies are non-existent.

Money becomes untraceable and massive concerns have to be raised about possible match-fixing and corruption. All on the NT Government watch.

We will be pushing for Federal action in the upcoming months as it has become clear that State and Territory regulators are completely complicit with bookmakers.

Twitter

In a short time, we have passed the 700 follower mark @FairWagering. Twitter conversation has been open and honest. We thank all for contributing to the discussion and hope that we can continue to use social media to draw attention to the issues and to conduct a balanced debate about bringing back fairness and integrity to Australian wagering.

Dave