SUBMISSION TO O’FARRELL INTERACTIVE GAMBLING REVIEW

Mr. O’Farrell,

When Treasurer Scott Morrison announced the review which you are chairing he said “I have deliberately left the terms of reference broad to ensure former Premier O’Farrell can look at everything he needs to, with no preconceived notions.” Therefore I have perused your review’s terms of reference but also formed my submission around what I believe to be the most important issues – from a punter’s perspective – for the Federal Government to consider.

  1. Problem Gambling; Corporate bookmakers overall have strong problem gambling infrastructures in place. I really don’t feel they need to do any more than they have already. However their level of advertising during live sport must change. They should be banned from having any part of telecasts. All other forms of advertising are acceptable. My generation and yours all grew up with no gambling around the sports we love – now, the next generation are coerced into thinking that the only way to enjoy live sport is to bet on it as well. This is most alarming when you consider the mostly rapacious conduct of the Corporate Bookmakers. Which leads me on…
  2. Minimum Bet Limits; It makes my blood boil when I see the blanket advertising Corporate Bookmakers throw at major sport in Australia knowing that the majority of them believe their bookmaking licence to be an entitlement, where the punter is merely fodder for their bottom line. Any punter that is not considered “economically viable” to a bookmaker has their account closed or severely restricted. Bookmakers offer people the opportunity to win money – that’s their product. They must be forced by the Federal Government to be true to this. Punter outrage over the last couple of years has led to some change from a minority of Corporate Bookmakers but there is still a long way to go. The bookmaking industry in Australia has been hijacked by foreign raiders who are intent on expanding the highly unethical business practices they have been allowed to get away with – mostly in U.K. and Europe – by ignorant, complicit regulators. These practices have had serious negative social impacts. The Federal Government must stand up to them. They are welcome here – but it must be to Australia’s advantage. Your review must either recommend introducing minimum bet limits for all Australian Corporate Bookmakers or explain to the Australian public why gambling should be allowed in society when no one can actually win at it?
  3. Illegal Offshore Wagering; the biggest threat is money being leaked to Asian betting exchanges. Punters are turning to these because they can’t get their bets on here because of account closures and restrictions but also because of the outdated, non-competitive structure of tote betting in Australia. Your review should begin talks between TabCorp., Tatts Bet and racing regulators about drastically overhauling tote-takeout rates. Tote-takeout rates of 18-20% are simply not viable long term in the digital age when compared with sportsbetting which has take-out rates of 3-5%. Many punters in Australia who have been barred by Corporate Bookmakers can bet on Asian betting exchanges and receive between 10-24% commission back on their bets. All punters want to support the Australian industry but when we have been treated so poorly for so long, betting with these Asian exchanges is most compelling.

Yours,

Richard Irvine

Another offshore attack. Just let us bet.

From today’s AustralianRacing, police combine to end illegal betting agencies

It really is hard to know where to start with this one.

We know Patrick Smith isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but does he really believe that any bookmaker not licensed by an Australian state or territory represents “an unprecedented menace to all sport”?

The article is obviously prompted by Racing Victoria’s decision to make it “an offence for any licensed and registered person to bet on Victorian racing with betting agencies not approved by Racing Victoria”.

Good luck with that one. Most trainers and jockeys are smart enough not bet in their own name – why would they open a Citibet account in their own name?

But onto sport. We have this quote from the AFL general counsel, Andrew Dillon:

Australian2

Interestingly, Dillon appears to be batting for the bookies in pushing for the in-play ban to be removed (it all but has been of course, with William Hill and Bet365 allowing it) as “the best way to counter the use of offshore illegal betting”.

We’ve got news for you Dillon. A good way to stop punters going offshore is to get bookies here to take a bet. You can start with your official wagering partner Crownbet who frequently deny $25 bets to winning customers.

Crownbet

Wonder why they go offshore when winning punters aren’t discriminated against at the likes of Pinnacle Sports with $10,000+ limits. Not to mention the revenue you are missing out on when your wagering partner only wants to accept bets from losing punters.

pinnacle1

If sporting bodies like the AFL wanted to do something for “integrity” they would be pushing for a fair minimum bet rule in sport. It would surely be easier to enforce than in racing where multiple punters bet at the same time.

Back to today’s article. How could Smith add more credibility to the piece? Go the to Victoria Police for a quote. That’s right the same police force that is so knowledgeable about betting that they charged a score-dispensing courtsider with “conduct that would corrupt a betting outcome”.

Australian3

“Because they operate outside of the law, they are able to appear more competitive”.. I assume he means the law (as he sees it) in Victoria and not the law where the bookmaker is registered?

Enough with all the misinformation. Just let winning punters get a fair bet on. Revenue to sporting bodies will increase and integrity concerns from money going offshore will be dramatically reduced.

Here’s a Classic(bet)!

The NSW Government licensed Classicbet really do hate winners. Here’s what they are asking for if they suspect that you might be somehow inclined to back more winners than losers:

—————–

After consideration we have decided to re-open your ClassicBet betting
account subject to the satisfactory completion and return of important
probity requirements.

In accordance with this, your account has been temporarily suspended
pending the receipt of these documents required by the ClassicBet
Compliance team.

Please complete the attached terms of trade with a Statutory Declaration
as to the bona fides of your betting account.

The completed Statutory Declaration must include the following
information and documents all of which must be verified by an authorised
party:

a. Your full name, address, date of birth, and occupation;

b. ClassicBet pin or account ID;

c. Details and supporting documentation as to whether you operate your
betting account for yourself only, or on behalf of someone else;

d. Details of how you are funding your betting account;

e. Certified copies of the evidence of the source of funds deposited to
your ClassicBet betting account;

f. Certified copies of your last three tax assessments;

g. Certified copies of documents evidencing your current income e.g.
your last 3 employee payslips;

h. Printout of the IP address(es) for the computers used to operate your
betting account;

and

i. Details of the mobile phone numbers used to operate your account.

Where a certified copy of a document is required to be attached to the
Statutory Declaration, you will need

to have those documents certified by a Justice of the Peace, Solicitor
or Commissioner for Declarations.

Upon receiving the above information your account will be unsuspended
and available for betting.

Kind regards,

ClassicBet Compliance team

Memo to AFL on INTEGRITY

Mixed success. That’s how you could describe our campaign to get bookies to take a racing bet from winning punters. While some have reported a positive experience, it’s all too evident that many Australian bookmakers continue to thumb their nose at Racing NSW’s Minimum Bet rule. This is particularly the case with so-called “indicative pricing” where by winning punters are offered a lower price than that served up on a platter to losing punters. Ka-ching!

With the 2015 kick-off of the biggest game in the land – the AFL – it’s time to turn a little attention to sport.

Readers will no doubt be familiar with all the “betting scandals” that have enveloped the game of Aussie Rules over the summer. The latest involved Collingwood’s Jack Crisp placing bets on an AFL market totaling, wait for it – $129. At the same time, the AFL announced it had sacked a scoring official for the year after permitting 62 bets totaling $362 be placed using his account. Yes, the average bet was $6. Sacked!

Rule breaches they were, but announced from the rooftops in the name of INTEGRITY. How heroic.

MEMO TO THE AFL

Here’s what the AFL can do about integrity – force their wagering partners to take a bet from winning punters.

The AFL have revenue and information sharing agreements with most if not all Australian-licensed bookmakers. The AFL take a share of revenue generated from betting on the game and bookmakers sift through their records to match names and report any anomalies to the AFL Integrity Unit.

We also know that winning clients are severely restricted to amounts that are hardly even worth the trouble of logging in at just about each and every Australian-licensed bookie.

The same punters are exposed to tweets like this from Pinnacle Sports.com (licensed in Curacao (a Dutch island in the southern Caribbean sea) and Malta).

 

Here is what a winning punter can get on at the line with Sportsbet on Monday’s Hawthorn v Geelong match.

sportsbet2

 

And here is what PinnacleSports.com will bet the same winning punter.

pinnacle1

 

 

 

$217 versus $13,777.

The AFL kiss goodbye to the revenue and have no idea who is betting. That is where you lose INTEGRITY – not from $6 bets.

Force your partner bookmakers to bet punters a reasonable amount and they don’t need to head offshore.

Another scenario. Say I’m a dopey insider at an AFL club after a quick buck. I’ve got news that the three best players are out for the weekend. It’s Thursday afternoon and I’m about to beat the massive line move by placing a few bets at Pinnacle. He could most probably get three bets on – up to $40,000 – before a significant line move.

You think Pinnacle Sports will be divulging the name of the punter who sparked a plunge to the AFL? Players and officials, you know where to bet.

Open letter to Bernard Saundry, CEO of Racing Victoria

Hi Bernard,

I was heartened to hear you recently on RSN Radio say that Racing Victoria will consider Minimum Bet Laws for corporate bookmakers in May when you renew your race fields legislation.

It’s so important that RVL introduce and legislate Minimum Bet Limits and ban account closures.

It’s incongruous that ingenuity and a pursuit of excellence is nurtured and sought as a priority in every aspect of racing except punting.  The highly sophisticated industry that RVL is pushing towards must consider and protect punters into the future.

Fixed odds wagering is booming and is heading towards – in-terms of revenue for the industry – becoming an equal funding contributor as tote betting. Tabcorp just released half yearly results where fixed odds revenues were up 33%. Fixed odds revenues are up because that’s how punters want to bet these days – in particular the next generation of punters that RVL has been vocal about attracting. I’m part of that next generation; we’re smart and we have an abundance of information and computers available to us that previous generations didn’t. And that’s given so many more punters the opportunity to win on the punt – which is a great thing. But there’s no point to this “digital revolution” and initiatives like your own racing.com, if punters can’t at least potentially monetise this wealth of info.

I heard you on radio this morning talk in particular about RVL trying to attract 18-25 year olds as a priority. You went on to affectionately label them as “the next generation of race goers and my children” and how important it is that they learn about racing and engage with it. If RVL don’t act against the current corporate bookmaker climate, “your children” will be engaging with a gambling market that is a one-sided massacre akin to poker machines. Strong but realistic language.

The entire industry, from the Australian Racing Board to media commentators, right through to the tens of thousands of industry participants are tired of corporate bookmakers rapacious conduct, because Australian racing is based on integrity and fair go for all. 

On-course betting rings have always been regulated and fair, which is why we have the strongest marketplace in the world. RVL should act for no other reason than to impose the same regulations that they have placed on on-course bookies for all of time. You would no doubt have had meetings with the Australian Bookmakers Association, who have waged a long, patient and considered campaign to level the playing field for the hundreds of on-course bookies they represent, who face the most headwinds of all wagering operators.

The marketplace has improved slightly in the last year. And some corporates have listened to the industry and are now running equitable, fair and profitable businesses. And there has been a minute minority of corporates who have always run fair businesses. But there is still a number of large foreign corporates who believe their bookmaker’s license is an entitlement, and they shouldn’t be saddled with the competitive forces that every other business in Australia faces. A bookmakers license is the privilege of framing a market with the percentage in your favour, and going about laying every runner to make your margin. This seems to have been forgotten.

I acknowledge that the fractured state of national racing administration has made this issue a complicated one. But you have the resources to to act and I guarantee it will be to racing’s betterment. You will face push-back from disgruntled corporates who may argue that the new tax regimes have made it too hard for them to service “low-margin clients”. But that’s simply because they misread and over invested in the Australian marketplace. That’s not RVL’s problem, and it’s not the punter’s problem.

This issue will never go away. If you don’t act the industry will continue to be deprecated as people like me speak out against it. I don’t wish to be an antagonist, I just love racing and want a fair go.

There’s two types of punters in Australia; those who win and those who aspire to win. If RVL don’t act for all punters in May you will be telling winning punters to invest elsewhere, and aspiring winning punters that they are welcome so long as they lose. What happens when the aspiring winning punters realise that they’re just fodder?

You run the strongest racing jurisdiction in the world. All punters love racing in Victoria and want to support and engage with it – but Racing Victoria need to support us.

Regards,

Richard Irvine

The Billion Dollar Bet

Australians individually lose, on average, $1,600 a year gambling – the most in the world. Because of this, a few years back, the big gambling houses of Europe set their sights on Australia and $1 billion surged in from offshore. The tide is quickly receding and that investment is souring.

William Hill grabbed Sportingbet, Centrebet, and Tom Waterhouse for a cool $710 million. Paddy Power swallowed Sportsbet and IasBet for $235 million. Ladbrokes strangely bought bookmaker.com.au and Betstar for a combined $40 million. Add in Unibet buying Betchoice for $20 million, and Bet365 setting up from scratch and bleeding $76 million in their first two years of operation, and there’s your billion dollar bet.

Where these CEO’s and their boards erred, was assuming that they would enjoy UK style regulatory protectionism, and be able to conduct their business’ in the same rapacious way they do back home.

Interestingly, their conduct back home has finally come to bear, and all the major UK bookmakers have acknowledged an outraged UK community and signed a Code of Conduct.

http://www.abb.uk.com/campaign/gambling-industry-responds-to-public-concerns/

European Big Gambling also underestimated how established the Aussie market was. Very few new punters are coming to the game, and most had already found a home with Sportingbet, Sportsbet or Tabcorp. So for Ladbrokes and Bet365, customer acquisition is very, very expensive. And the customer base that William Hill and Paddy Power bought, came at significant expense. This has left them all in a costly race to the bottom to attract new clients.

Paddy Power, who reported a solid annual profit of just over $50 million for their Aussie arm, Sportsbet, is the only UK company to achieve acceptable results so far. However, they have a lot of work in front of them to stay as the most recognised brand in Australian wagering (a title which Tabcorp have ceded) and repay the $235 million invested to gain that position.

William Hill has the most daunting task. For the original team who started Sportingbet Australia, William Hill swooping at the top of the market must remind them of Alan Bond at his best. Sportsbet’s $50 million annual profit is the benchmark for the industry – there’s a lot of $50 million’s in $710 million. Now, Tom Waterhouse – who has just been appointed CEO of William Hill Australia at the age of 32 – is burdened with clawing back the $710 million that London head office decided was a good bet to have on the Aussie market.

It’s speculated there has already been an internal revaluation of William Hill’s Australian operation – written down to $320 million. Ouch!

From the mid 90’s, Australian wagering became the Wild West. Fractured administration and regulation led to disgruntled corporate bookmakers seeking, and finding, a complicit regulator in the Northern Territory – which allowed them to write their own rules. This was to the deep detriment of the racing industry and the community. Now the industry and community has caught up with them, and corporate bookies will be allowed to continue operating their businesses in the manner they’ve chosen – but they’re gunna pay for it. And more importantly, they will be made to treat punters fairly.

Racing Victoria and Racing Queensland completely blind sided the bookies when they nearly doubled their product fees and introduced a new turnover tax regime of between 2 and 3.5%, depending on the status of the race meeting – premier meetings like the Melbourne Cup attract the maximum turnover tax applicable in Victoria of 3%. This makes the bookies already incredibly tight business models close to untenable.

Racing NSW, after persistent complaints from the industry, took the noble step of introducing minimum bet limits and ethical standards on corporate bookmakers betting on NSW racing. They did this by citing the Federal Court’s 2011 decision that Racing NSW are entitled to administer their product any way they see fit.

Of the six biggest bookies in Australia, Sportsbet and Bet365 have adhered to Racing NSW’s new rules. Tabcorp, William Hill, Ladbrokes and Unibet are ignoring them and refuse to allow punters an opportunity to win. If need be, I hope Racing NSW stare them down all the way back to the Federal Court.

All the while, the bookies have been desperately lobbying the Abbott government to amend legislation and allow in-play betting on the internet. In-play betting has produced rivers of gold for Big Gambling in Europe. The untapped Aussie in-play market was a major factor why the Europeans payed massively over the odds for established Australian corporate bookies. This change doesn’t look to be on the horizon and it’s implementation would have questionable benefits anyway.

All theses factors add up to the stark reality that the European bookies, with the exception of Paddy Power, will never recoup their initial investments.

Fairness returns?

In case you missed this week’s news, Racing NSW have declared their intention to bring back fairness into the Australian wagering landscape by introducing a minimum bet rule.

Racing NSW announced the move here. And more details about how it forms part of the “Race Fields Information Use Conditions” are available here.

There has been a heap of commentary on the issue already in mainstream media. Racing radio station RSN has led the way:

Peter V’Landys – Racing NSW CEO

– Mary Collier – Australian Wagering Council

– Richard Irvine

– Punter Steve Fletcher predicts NSW racing turnover will skyrocket from new minimum bet limits

This is great news. But its only the beginning and there’s a long way to go in our efforts to help swing the pendulum back towards a level playing field between punters and bookmakers in Australia.

As we’ve said before, holding a bookmakers licence is NOT and never should be a licence to print money. Targeting and betting losers only is a completely ruthless and unfair business model. Complicit state regulators have failed dismally to protect punters.

Lets be clear – the foreign-owned corporate bookmakers are making huge profits from their Australian operations. Betting winners to win $2000 or $1000 wont send them to the wall, but it will trim their margins to a more realistic level. Who knows, maybe risk assessors might make way for some real bookmakers that know how to price and manage markets?

It’s no surprise that spin doctor Mary Collier, who represents the foreign-owned corps, is defending the shameful practices right up until the end. “What the entire industry needs when looking at complex issues is to have rules developed in a thoughtful and careful way that .. works for bookmakers and punters,” she says while complaining about a (perceived) lack of consultation. Excuse me?

You see, I cant find a punter who was consulted before the corporates quietly and successfully lobbied the Northern Territory Racing Commission to have their minimum bet rule completely abolished a few years ago. Not one.

Arguments about small “Mum and Dad” punters losing out is absurd. I’m tipping that there will be no impact whatsoever on price competitiveness as a result of this rule. It will remain a highly competitive industry – why would one bookie consistently bet a higher margin and risk losing or attracting new business?

We’ve got the issue into the mainstream media. Punters and the general public see a racing body making an attempt to bring back fairness to punting. Good luck to any bookie who decides to ignore the rules and go to court in an attempt to keep winners off their books. We all know how that will look in the court of public opinion.

Open Letter from Kingsley Bartholomew to RVL and Racing Queensland

Kingsley Bartholomew has been one of the more significant punters in the Australian wagering marketplace for 15 years now. He’s deeply concerned about the future of the industry – and what it means for punters – in the face of proposed new tax models. He has written an interesting open letter to the CEO’s of Racing Victoria and Racing Queensland.

Dear Mr. Saundry and Mr. Condon,

My name is Kingsley Bartholomew. I have been a  punter on Australian horse racing for 15 years. My turnover in that time has been significant. I’m compelled to write to you due to the parlous current state of the wagering industry. I believe the bookmaker tax model you plan to introduce will be the tipping point.

What impact I believe the new model will have:

An immediate decline in fixed odds turnover – followed by a gradual decline in pari-mutual turnover.

Less competitive and higher percentage markets being offered by bookmakers.

Bookmakers will no longer be willing to manage or accommodate low-profit margin or winning clients.

Corporate bookmakers will become more stringent in the closing and restricting of accounts.

Under the RVL model, bookmakers will be willing to take less risk, as they do not want their profit/loss swings to be too volatile. Reduced risk equals reduced turnover. The 15-30% gross profit per meeting rule is one of the greatest ways to suppress the marketplace.

Bookmakers will head offshore where they can offer far more competitive markets in an unregulated environment. The majority of corporate bookmakers headed to the Northern Territory in the 2000’s for this reason – we must make sure the same mistake is not made twice.

Where I believe we’re headed:

On-course bookmakers will become non-existent, apart from major carnival days.

The majority of corporate bookmakers will only service small, recreation punters.

Pari-mutual pools will decrease gradually due to the lack of stimulation in the marketplace.

Both bookmakers and punters will look to other forms of gambling, as Australian horse racing becomes no longer viable.

What I believe should be done:

All states should adopt Racing NSW’s current taxation model.

A 50% reduction of this fee should apply for all on-course bookmakers. On-course bookmakers are the lifeblood of the wagering industry in Australia. They are currently being left to die – I believe we will only realise how important they were to the industry when they’re gone.

State regulatory bodies work together to adopt a federal law where corporate bookmakers per bet risk limits are introduced. It’s absurd that the corporate bookmakers landscape in Australia is made up primarily of foreign owned companies who are virtually able to ‘write their own rules’ when it comes to accepting, declining or cancelling bets.

Ban the closure of accounts by corporate bookmakers. In the UK bookmakers are not obliged to accept bets from anyone. As a result of this unfair marketplace, Betfair now dominates the market and their racing industry is in dire straits. In the past the Australian gambling marketplace has always prided itself on fairness and integrity, this sadly is no longer the case. Bookmakers have always been granted licenses to provide a market (with a percentage in their favour) to all punters – not to find, prey on, and exploit losing gamblers. The online industry has morphed into the latter.

Create state of the art ‘betting pavilions’ at major racetracks in Sydney and Melbourne where punters have access to personalised computers with high speed internet, database access, custom designed betting applications, TAB incentives, etc.

Options to consider:

Tax bookmakers higher on non-fixed odds bets (tote derivatives). This would have a much lower impact on turnover levels, as bookmakers would find it much easier to adjust their betting models. This would also provide less competition to pari-mutual pools.

Reducing pari-mutual takeout and allowing bookmakers to only offer a fixed odds product. I believe we would then be left with the best of both worlds. A vibrant fixed odds market where bookmakers are not continually trying to undercut the TAB, and a competitive pari-mutual with larger pools. Even in Hong Kong – with no fixed odds bookmakers – the government has realised that a 10% rebate is needed to ensure the long-term future of their racing.

A taxation model that includes a tax reduction for bookmakers whose average bet size is high. Bookmakers should be encouraged to accept larger bets – but they are reluctant to – not only because their risk is greater, but also because their profit margin is a lot lower.

In summary

I believe the first question you need to ask yourself when making a decision concerning the wagering landscape is – will the proposed change increase or decrease turnover? If the answer is decrease, it’s the wrong move.

I implore you to give careful consideration to my thoughts. Punters generally, are bewildered at the quickly vanishing integrity of the marketplace. There’s a strong feeling that we’ve simply become fodder for the industry – we have no rights and no voice. If smarts and ingenuity is not nurtured and rewarded by the racing industry, punters will have no choice but to invest elsewhere.

Regards,

Kingsley Bartholomew

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).

Debunking The Spin

Sportingbet pay the King of Spin, Shane Warne $1 million a year to be their brand ambassador. Their adversaries, Sportsbet have saved a million by having their own in house King of Spin, Cormac Barry.

Most of you would have heard the almighty load of self-interest inspired spin that Cormac Barry and Mary Collier of the Australian (European) Wagering Council served up to racing’s most informed and relevant voice Shane Anderson earlier in the week.

They shit they spun troubled me so I felt a need to debunk it.

Let’s start with Mr Barry who took over Sportsbet 2-3 years ago after the Paddy Power buyout.

Cormac told us what innovators he and all the other corporates are, and how much they do for the punter. Shane asked him are punters really getting great service if a lot are getting barred?

Cormac’s response was – “The genesis of customers being banned came into place with the advent of turnover based tax”. Ahhh, no, mate – Sportsbet and Sportingbet ferociously barred punters all the way through the early 2000’s as they were paying no tax at all to RVL, Racing NSW etc.. So that’s that one out of the way – moving on.

Cormac suggested that corporates could service low margin or “winning punters” if a gross profit based turnover model was introduced for low margin clients. Claiming “we lose to the punter and then lose to RVL as well with the present system”.

Seems a pretty stupid idea to me – if I win off Sportsbet they pay me but nothing gets returned to the industry? Further, you promote yourselves as the “fixed odds specialist”. Fixed odds come with risk management – you’re a bookie – if you lose, that’s your problem, not RVL’s. Okay, taken care of that – moving on to Cormac’s corker!

Unprovoked, Cormac went on to claim that the main reason winning clients are barred is because –

“There’s an assumption there is perfect information in the market”

“We can’t be sure if a punter is continuously getting good information, that that information isn’t questionable”.

“In a perfect world where if there was no integrity issue I would have no problem taking bets off all punters”

Luckliy Ralph Horiwitz, Shane’s co-host, reined him in on this one. It was a baseless, deeply unqualified statement. Cormac should have retracted it and apologised immediately – but he didn’t.

I was offended. I’ve been barred by just about everyone – does that mean I’m a hot worker?

Cormac insulted all punters and the industry at large. Not to mention Australian stewards who are proven to be the best in the world.

Where there is money there will always be corruption and bookmakers must protect themselves and sports from corruption, but to claim that’s why punters are barred was disgusting.

I didn’t agree with one word Cormac said. I feel he missed the biggest point of all for corporates in the new tax structure – the per meeting charging of the new tax. He and Mary never mentioned it, maybe because their businesses are so fat they win every day so they need not worry about the unfairness of paying turnover tax on losing days and gross profit tax on winning days.

Mary Collier trotted out the “we reject 1 in 10,000 bets” line when pressed by Shane about account closures.

What is this stupid line? It made no sense when they produced it 8 months ago and it’s still just as irrelevant. All the bookies she represents except for Unibet don’t reject bets, they either accept your bets or shut you down. Unibet who are respected as being one of  the fairest bookies in Australia might reject 1 in 10,000 bets – is she referring to them?

None of the “vocal minority” as she labelled us are complaining about rejected bets – we’re sick of being straight up shut down.

And this is the genesis of my problem with Cormac and the Australian (European) Wagering Council – if they want the respect of the horseracing industry and the community at large they need to stop the groundless spin and start telling the truth about their business models. At present the Govt. are allowing their business model so what’s there to hide?