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17 July 2011

Australian Gambling And iGaming News Developments, by Greg Tingle - 17th July 2011

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Australian Gaming Firms Not So Keen On Outsiders...

An established online betting operator is calling on any legislation on exotic gambling options to also include a toughening up of controls on online casino poker offerings.

Australia's "big four" online gambling brands: Betfair, Sportsbet, Centrebet and Sportingbet last month backed proposed new measures to stamp out match-fixing in sport.

British based igaming firm Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment, the world leader in igaming, is monitoring the situation closely and is understood to be in negotiations with the Australian government. This follows their successful negotiations with the United States Department of Justice over 2 years ago, which are leading the company once again offering full and completely legal igaming services to Americans, as part of their global strategy.

However, Betfair chief exec top brass Andrew Twaits said online poker websites, which he says cost the industry hundreds of millions of dollars annually, should also be part of new legislation.

"While it is pleasing to see both the federal and state governments taking the integrity of betting in sports seriously and on a united front, the present legislation is clearly not working when it comes to online poker," Twaits said.

"Online sports betting in this country turns over $300 million a year, is highly regulated and we pay our taxes, while operators of online poker sites are not, many of which are controlled and run offshore.

"That's the real challenge facing not just the federal and state governments of this country, but governments across the globe.

"It is estimated that the turnover in this and other forms of illegal betting is $125 billion worldwide. That's why as an industry we welcome any tightening of the present legislation in this country of the Victorian Integrated Gambling Act.

"The sooner the rest of the states and territories fall into line the better it will be for everyone."

A lot of the concerns relate to preserving the integrity of sporting events.

There's a push to employ full-time supervisors to scrutinise betting trends. The AFL employs an integrity officer.

The coalition represents the NRL, AFL, ARU, Cricket Australia, FFA, Netball and Tennis.

"The NRL could take a leaf out of the AFL's book on this issue. They seem to be dragging the chain a little," Sullivan told the press.

"We've seen on the issue arising from the North Queensland investigation that the checks and balances we as an industry already have in place actually do work.

"As for the NRL asking for an industry-wide ban on exotic bets, that's fine, but our figures show that the average bet on the first and last tryscorer is just $9.

"That wouldn't buy you a schooner of beer in some pubs in Fremantle.

"Betting on cricket matches in this country isn't a problem. The trouble starts with the sheer weight of money bet on games in India and Pakistan where the industry is either illegal or nowhere near as regulated as you find it here in Australia.

"All we are asking for as a collective is a level playing field."


European Agency Closed To Australia...

European betting agency Betdaq Friday ceased operating on Australian racing and most Australian sports after revelations its activities were illegal.

It's been revealed that Betdaq, a privately owned Irish-based betting exchange, was operating offshore covering Australian racing and a range of other sports, including the AFL and NRL, without appropriate licensing and in contravention of state and federal legislation.

A Betdaq spokesman contacted by Murdoch's The Australian newspaper said Friday: "The betting services on Australian races and sports has been stopped. A legal problem has developed. It should be sorted out soon but until further notice we will not be operating on Australian sport." The spokesman declined to state specifically what legalities had forced it to close down its Australian operations. When informed by The Australian yesterday that Betdaq had withdrawn its Australian endeavours, the federal Minister for Sport Mark Arbib said: "Betting sites operating offshore without regulation are a potential threat to the integrity of Australian sport. Online gambling has been referred to Minister (Stephen) Conroy's review of the Interactive Gambling Act."

In The Australian's report it was revealed that on Wednesday Betdaq was operating on race meetings in Victoria (Sandown), NSW (Warwick Farm) and Queensland (Eagle Farm). It was also setting markets for the major football codes and also promoting online casino and poker services.

It is fully expected other overseas betting agencies will attempt to bet on Australian races and sport too after Sky Racing completed a deal last week for Australian races to be broadcast live on At The Races, the major thoroughbred racing channel in the UK.

To operate on Australian race meetings, bookmakers and betting exchanges need to be licensed with the various state racing authorities. As well, betting on sport and sporting events needs licensing agreements with the sports.

Websites such such as Betdaq are understood to weaken the potential influence and authority of last month's commitment between the federal government, the state sport ministers and the major Australian sports to agree to national legislation to police integrity issues in sport.

The meeting agreed to a multi-pronged attack on corruption.

A news release from Arbib's department said the key features of the policy were:

*Legal arrangements and integrity agreements between sports and betting companies which will include requirements to share information, provide sports with a right to veto bet types and provide a financial return from sports betting to sports;

*The establishment of a National Integrity of Sport Unit to oversee the national arrangements and provide support for smaller sports;

*Agreement to pursue nationally consistent legislative arrangements;

*The adoption of codes of conduct by sports, and;

*Government funding will be contingent on sports implementing appropriate anti-match-fixing and anti-corruption policies and practices.

The national strategy will be put in front of the state attorneys-general for discussion next month.

However, the limits of that national code to police corruption in sport if offshore bookmakers and betting exchanges offer services to Australian punters are manifest if those betting agencies are not licensed in this country.

Licensing agreements with racing bodies and sporting codes ensure the betting agencies pay a fee for the right to use the racefields and fixtures but also agree to co-operate fully with authorities if they become aware of any suspicious betting patterns or unauthorised sports people or officials placing bets.

The chief executive of Racing Victoria Rob Hines and his NSW counterpart Peter V'landys were unaware on Wednesday that Betdaq was operating on their race meetings.

The AFL, too, did not know that the betting exchange was wagering on its competition.

In effect, the website was not monitored.

Betdaq still had markets for the premiership winner in the AFL and NRL presumably because those bets are not on the fixtures themselves and punters would have already placed bets in good faith.

The Betdaq spokesman indicated that no other sport bets would be taken and relevant markets would be removed.

Hines said he had been told by his integrity services department a letter had been sent to Betdaq warning it of the dangers - a $60,000 fine every day an unlicensed agency bets on racefields - but had received no reply. Betdaq also offers Australians the opportunity to gamble on only casino poker online.


Australian Federal Police Lack Resources To Impose Fines On Gambling...

The Australian Federal Police is lacking resources to investigate online gambling cases.

The official penalties of up to $1.1 million a day have not been pursued.

There's rumors the FBI may or is assisting the AFP.

The Australian Federal Police this week advised that since 2009, 15 allegations of criminal breaches of the Interactive Gambling Act have not been investigated.

The lack of action by the AFP continues despite Australian Crime Commission advice that internationally the integrity of professional sports has been compromised, with organised criminal groups understood to be targeting the sector.

In a submission lodged on July 12 with the joint select committee into gambling reform, the AFP national manager crime operations, Ramzi Jabbour, said: "In the previous two years, the AFP received 15 referrals concerning allegations of offences committed contrary to the act. In isolation, when compared to other criminal activity, these referrals were categorised as low priority for investigation and consequently not investigated."

Under the act's provisions, any person found guilty of providing a prohibited service is liable to a fine of $110,000 a day and any company up to $1.1 million a day.

The AFP submission confirms the force is required by federal legislation to investigate alleged criminal activity referred to it by senator Stephen Conroy's Department of Broadband, Communication and Digital Economy.

On Thursday, Irish-based betting exchange Betdaq closed down its operations on Australian racing after revelations by News Limited's The Australian newspaper that it was acting in contravention of both state and federal legislation.

The Weekend Australian newspaper has learned that the federal police have alerted Conroy's department that they are under-resourced and have known of Bet365's apparent illegal activities since 2001.

A spokeswoman for the department said yesterday that the IGA faces a review and the terms of reference would be finalised shortly.

"The review will include an examination of the operation of the act and the effectiveness of the current provisions. It will include further consideration of international regulatory approaches to online gambling," the spokeswoman said.

Part of the review would also address harm minimisation measures for online gambling services.

"The review will also look at the enforcement of existing prohibitions on certain types of online gambling, the way the act applies to different technological platforms, and the growing number of Australian consumers gambling online in an unregulated environment."

The AFL general manager of football Adrian Anderson said the league would support increased regulatory powers to shut down sites betting illegally on its fixtures. The racing industry supports regulation that would ban banks from processing money transfers to offshore bookmakers which wagered illegally on Australian sporting fields.

The ACC's submission to the select committee lodged last month was stark and warned that online wagering was a common target for money laundering. "Many cyber criminal networks use the boundaries of traditional law enforcement to their advantage, targeting users from other countries and in turn making their crimes harder to investigate," ACC chief executive John Lawler advised.

"The criminal groups that are exploiting professional sport overseas have a strong historical involvement in illegal gambling and gaming and this has been an important source of income for these groups. Sport has simply become a new market for these groups to exploit."

Punters, er readers, stay glued to Media Man reports for more "can't miss" information on Australian pokies, gaming and casino wars.

*Media Man http://www.mediamanint.com is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company. They cover a dozen industry sectors including gaming. Media Man also publishes Media Man News

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