Gaming operators were informed they will be able to offer online “in-play” sports betting and real-cash poker in the next 6-12 months, reported the Herald Sun yesterday. In response to the report, Senator Nick Xenophon announced freedom of information requests will be made between the online gaming industry and federal government.
The Australian Federal government has been prompted to review the country’s undated Interactive Gaming Act of 2001 over the past few years. Online gaming companies claim that tight regulations are preventing them from competing with offshore firms.
Live betting is currently prohibited online but available for players in local retail outlets and over the phone. The government believes Australians are spending millions of dollars betting on live events at offshore websites and analysts estimate the sector could be worth up to us$300 million a year.
The proposed legislative change would provide a significant benefit to online bookmakers and level out the playing field, with heightened competition from overseas websites targeting Australian consumers. It would also allow the country to retain taxable revenue and construct regulatory measures to protect consumers.
Australia is the only country in the world that allows online betting on sport but prohibits in-play betting. According to a recent anti-corruption report, it is estimated that about 75 and 90 percent of wagers placed on international soccer and tennis matches are made live.
“We now know the government has been engaged in secret talks with the online gambling industry to enable them to diversify their addictive product to suck in more Australians,” the founder of Australia’s No Pokies party said in a statement, “It seems after its betrayal of its deal with (independent MP) Andrew Wilkie for real poker machine reform, the government is on a roll.”
Online real-cash poker games would also factor into the scheme and comes at a good time, ahead of an annual Australian-hosted World Series of Poker starting April 2013. Many Australians already play poker, but through websites hosted overseas.
Merrill Lynch gaming analyst Mark Bryan, commented, “In-play live online betting: Many in the industry indicated that they expect this to be legalised alongside poker in the next six-12 months following overseas precedents.”