Wagering Operators Brace For Government Crackdown

Corporate bookmakers will be banned from offering free bet bonuses to new clients under wagering reforms to be introduced next year.

Wagering Operators Brace For Government Crackdown

Corporate bookmakers will be banned from offering free bet bonuses to new clients under wagering reforms to be introduced next year.

Free bets, sign-up bonuses and account credits - key incentives wagering operators have used to entice punters to open new betting accounts - will be banned from June next year under a national clamp down on the marketing practices of the corporates by Federal and State Governments.

The restrictions were agreed to when Commonwealth, State and Territory gambling ministers met in Melbourne on September 8 for their third meeting to discuss reforms recommended in a review of the online gambling industry by former NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell.

Nine measures were progressed with the aim that they be implemented throughout 2018 to complete the establishment of a best‑practice National Consumer Protection Framework.

The corporates such as Ladbrokes, Sportsbet, William Hill, CrownBet, Bet365, Luxbet, Centrebet, Palmerbet, Betfair and Unibet have concentrated much of their advertising and marketing on offers to match client deposits or referrals with free bet bonuses and account top ups.

In most cases the deposit bonuses for new clients range in value from $200 to $500.

Friday’s ministerial meeting also agreed that any winnings from a bonus bet will be able to be withdrawn by the account holder without being subject to turnover requirements.

The Federal Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge acted as chairman at last Friday’s meeting and welcomed the raft of measures that are designed to protect punters from excessive and addictive online gambling.

The new measures include online punters being able to set voluntary binding deposit limits and a seven-day cooling-off period before a deposit limit can be increased.

A self-exclusion register from bookmaker websites and apps will also be introduced to assist problem gamblers by the end of next year.

"Australians enjoy a punt but we want to ensure there are reasonable protections in place and that individuals have greater control over their gambling expenditure,” Tudge said.

“Online gambling is growing faster than any other form of gambling and the incidences of problem gambling is higher. The gambling problems of the future will all come from the online space if we don’t put sensible protections in place.

“Along with the limits on advertising and the crackdown on illegal offshore providers, these new changes will make a substantial difference to limiting the harm from excessive gambling.”

The reforms agreed to last Friday also apply to Tabcorp and complement other steps already taken to regulate online gambling.

They include the banning of gambling advertising from live sporting events before 8.30pm; the crackdown on illegal offshore gambling providers with the passage of the Interactive Gambling Act; and the prohibition of operators offering lines of credit to their punters.

The ban on the provision of lines of credit by online wagering providers and cessation of links between payday lenders and online providers takes effect this week.

Friday’s meeting agreed to the following in relation to inducements and accounts:

• Inducements to open an account or refer a friend to open an account will be prohibited.

• Inducements not part of an approved loyalty program in a jurisdiction that only permits inducements as part of an approved loyalty program will continue to be prohibited.

• The winnings from a bonus bet must be able to be withdrawn and not subject to turnover requirements.

• All customers of wagering services must opt-in to receive direct marketing material.

• All marketing communications must contain a functional and easily accessible option to unsubscribe from receiving marketing material.

• Jurisdictions to pursue measures to restrict the advertising of inducements through their own regulations and licensing arrangements.

Other reforms and measures to be enacted include:

• Provision of standardised activity statements to clients on demand and on a regular basis

• Staff involved in the provision of wagering services, or who have the capacity to influence the wagering service, must undertake responsible services of gambling training and create a culture of responsible gambling within the organisation.

• Customer verification to be reduced to a maximum 14-day timeframe and take effect through Commonwealth Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Financing Rules to be operational by March 2018. Ministers agreed that a 72-hour customer verification timeframe is preferable.

• Online operators are prohibited from providing direct promotional or marketing material to customers following the suspension or closure of an account.

The meeting noted that the Wagering Working Group is considering a common national approach on a point of consumption tax for online wagering and will report to the next Council on Federal Financial Relations later in the year.

Responsible Wagering Australia has welcomed the tighter restrictions on client sign-ups.

"We welcome the decision to adopt RWA's proposal to ban sign-up promotions," said RWA director Stephen Conroy.

"This will ensure that Australians are able to choose a preferred wagering operator free from any financial incentive."

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