New laws that have been introduced in Victoria don’t outlaw sports betting within the state – but they do tip the balance in favor of the gamblers instead of the companies who facilitate gambling.
The state government of Daniel Andrews hopes to be a pioneer for the nation as a whole by rolling out the new measures, which could form a template that could be copied across the country. The announcement of the laws follows a two-year consultation period, which focused on ensuring that Victorians could still enjoy gambling responsibly, but weren’t taken advantage of by cynical or profiteering marketing tactics by large sports betting companies. They’re being touted as the first laws of their kind to be introduced anywhere in Australia.
No More Free Bets
The primary focus of the new laws – formally announced towards the end of May but officially rolled out in June – is to stop gambling companies offering incentives that require players to continue gambling before they can claim them. The most common form of this incentive comes in the form of a ‘free bet,’ in which a customer can stake a bet at no charge, cannot immediately withdraw any winnings which come as a result of that bet. Instead, the winnings must be bet again before any proceeds can be withdrawn.
The rules will form part of a new initiative called the National Consumer Protection Framework, and will have direct implications for many major sports betting brands who operate both inside and outside Victoria, including companies as big as Ladbrokes. As well as being unable to offer ‘free bets’ from which no winnings can be claimed, the firms are further prohibited from offering incentives to their players to ‘refer a friend’. In the past, some online slots websites such as RoseSlots.com have rewarded players who can successfully introduce friends and family to register by giving them ‘free bets’ or other forms of credit, including vouchers.
Consenting To Communication
It’s not just what happens when customers log onto their preferred betting websites that are being subjected to new regulation – the actions companies take when their customers aren’t actively gambling with them are being restricted, too. At present, there is little restriction placed on how and when a gambling company can send a text message or an email to registered customers, either inviting them to come and play, or sending them an incentive to do so.
From now on, customers can only be sent such communications if they’ve provided their explicit consent to receive them, with fines planned for any company found to be in violation of the new rules. The approach to consent and communication is very similar to the recent General Data Protection Regulations introduced in Europe, which have ended the practice of assumed consent for all customers to receive marketing communications unless specific permission has been granted.
In addition to only contacting customers if they have express permission to do so, companies must provide ‘easy to use’ access to a means of either closing their account, or placing restrictions on how much they can place as a maximum bet.
While the moves are seen as a strong crackdown on sports betting, there are some who feel that the moves amount to hypocrisy on the part of the Andrews Government. In some quarters, they have been perceived as not taking sufficient action against both physical slot machines and online casino games which offer players the chance to bet on other forms of gambling, such as roulette, cards, and ‘pokies.’ There were calls for a cap to be placed on the maximum stakes players could place on such forms of gambling earlier in the year, and Andrews was accused of not doing enough.
Andrews ultimately decided that the maximum allowable stake on such forms of casino gaming should be capped at $500. Activists and pressure groups were pushing for a much lower limit, and questioned the alleged closeness of Andrews and his party to the gambling and gaming industries. It’s no secret that Andrews has served as a gaming minister in his political past, and that the Australian Hotels Association donated half a million dollars to the ALP’s campaign during state elections in November.
The figures available also suggest that Australian gamblers lose less money on sports betting than they do on other casino games. The figures for 2018 indicated a loss to players of over $3bn betting on racing, and a little over $1bn on other forms of sports betting. By contrast, a total of $17bn in bets was placed and lost on traditional casino games. This comes during a time when online gambling is experiencing rapid growth, with 15% more being bet online in 2018 than in 2017.
The reaction to the new measures from both the pro-gaming and anti-gaming camps has been predictable. Tabcorp, who is the largest gaming company native to Australia, has cautiously welcomed the new measures. They feel that they strike a balance between responsibility and fair play, while ensuring that gamblers living in Victoria can still indulge in their hobby.
IMAGES: Via Pixabay