Sports betting giant Betfair Australia has decided to remove its entire Rugby League offering just weeks before the start of the season. Tensions between the sports wagering industry and the National Rugby League continue to mount over the newly proposed premium tax that would be levied on the State of Origin and grand finals betting.
The NRL plans to cash in on its most popular events, including the three Origin clashes and the grand final, by increasing the tax for allowing sportsbooks to offer bets on these matches. As revealed last month by the Sydney Morning Herald, the inflated levies could net the league an additional AU$1 million a year.
Protesting the new super tax, Betfair, which is the world’s largest betting exchange and one of the leading wagering giants in Australia, has decided to pull out all NRL markets out of its offering. Its clients currently cannot place bets on pre-season matches, including All Stars 2020, the ultimate cultural showdown that is taking place at Cbus Super Stadium this Saturday.
Betfair is currently in the process of negotiating a new Product Fee Agreement with the NRL. We cannot offer any NRL markets until the new agreement is in place. We are hopeful that a fair agreement will be in place before the start of the 2020 season.
— Betfair Australia (@Betfair_Aus) February 19, 2020
The 2020 NRL season kicks off on Thursday, March 12, but there are plenty of pre-season trials happening until then. Betfair’s stance seems extreme as other betting firms continue to offer wagers on NRL matches. It is unclear, however, whether any sportsbook has signed the agreement with the National Rugby League.
Sportsbooks: New Fee Structure to Make NRL Markets Unsustainable
The product fee model that allows bookmakers to offer NRL matches is being negotiated every year after a temporary deal was struck last year. The proposed fee structure for the 2020 season is yet to be agreed upon between betting firms and Rugby League Central and a last-minute agreement is expected in the coming weeks.
According to Sydney Morning Herald sources, the inflated levy would add at least an extra 20 per cent to the current rugby league product fees. The changes are believed to make offering NRL markets “unsustainable” for bookmakers and would most likely to affect punters who would have to bet on events with increased takeout rates. Wagering insiders warn that if signed off, the new fee structure would make rugby league the highest taxed domestic sport in Australia.
The proposed levy is also expected to bring millions in extra revenue to the National Rugby League, which also needs to negotiate a new deal for an official wagering partner. Its $60 million agreement with Sportsbet expires in 2020. In 2016, the bookmaker won the deal, which became the most lucrative wagering sponsorship in Australian sport.
Additionally, the NRL is now preparing to renew the broadcast rights deal and some media analysts believe that it will try to segregate the State of Origin series from other events. The annual rivalry between the New South Wales Blues and the Queensland Maroons is one of Australia’s premier sporting events and it attracts huge audiences in stadiums and in front of the TV. In terms of gambling market share, however, Rugby League lags behind sports like AFL, basketball, soccer, and tennis.