According to media reports, a major gambling operator is providing financial inducements to players to place online bets with the company, despite the practice is currently banned on a federal level.
The practice is not new to the sector. For years, Australian bookmakers have offered free bets and special bonuses to their punters to match their deposits and encourage them to continue gambling. This, however, has faced the criticism of some experts, according to whom such actions only encourage gambling addiction and has therefore been suspended under a code of practice that was only deployed a week ago.
Despite the federal ban which was imposed on the practice, media reports show that there are still bookmakers who are offering incentives to their players. As reported by ABC News, the British bookmaker Ladbrokes and its local brand Neds are still offering such encouragements to players to make them continue betting. Yesterday, the website punters.com.au was displaying an offer for customers who deposit AU$250 to get a bonus of AU$250 in return. As revealed by ABC News, a pop-up ad offering a similar bonus through Neds appeared on another website, promising that all players who deposit AU$250 would have AU$500 to bet with.
Anti-gambling campaigners have warned that offering such incentives is actually boosting levels of gambling addiction and makes people spend more than they can afford to. The states of Victoria, New South Wales (NSW), South Australia and Western Australia have already rolled out certain restrictions on the practice, but until recently there has not been an actual ban on advertising the above-mentioned incentives.
Other Companies Have Complied Immediately with the New Rules
For the time being, most bookmakers that operate in Australia under licences issued by the Northern Territory and are regulated by the Racing Commission there.
According to competitors’ reports, both Ladbrokes and Neds are taking advantage of the Northern Territory regulator’s period of leniency. Back on May 22nd, the chairperson of the Racing Commission revealed that bookmakers would be given one-month leniency from commencement where any non-compliance issues are identified. However, unlike Ladbrokes and Neds, other large gambling operators complied immediately with the new requirements.
Despite the advertisements for online betting which are still displayed, the two companies defended the practice, saying that they back the National Consumer Protection Framework and the customer protection included there. Still, for the time being, it seems that these are the only betting operators abusing the condition of the ban.
Responsible Wagering Australia (RWA), the organisation which represents major bookmakers in the country, has explained that its members were expected to abide all elements of the National Consumer Protection Framework (NCPF) and the RWA Code of Conduct. On the other hand, one of the most eager anti-gambling campaigners, the public health expert Charles Livingstone from the Monash University, explained that the operators were probably willing to see how far they could push the boundaries imposed by regulators. On the other hand, regulatory bodies and competent authorities needed to make it clear that breaking the law would lead to suitable penalties, including cancellation or full suspension of operating licences.