Australian wagering companies are fighting for legalisation of live betting to take advantage of a $2b pie.
And Monash University gambling researcher, Dr Charles Livingstone, said the consequences could be devastating, that he thought live betting would take over from the poker machine gambling and that it would cause the ‘greatest harm’ from gambling in the country.
Currently the Federal Government is in the process of reviewing online gambling laws under the current interactive gambling act which was written in 2001, that is before smart phones and laptops became devices of choice for many punters.
Although live online sports betting is illegal, in Australia, punters such as ‘Tom’ (who did not want to his surname published) are able to use offshore gambling sites to get around the ban.
Peter V'landys, the Racing NSW chief executive said that in sport you wouldn’t know when there's corruption, because they don't fix matches, they fix the elements of the play, he continued that as soon as the game begins the odds fluctuate up and down. He said that there are some wild swings, and if you're able to predict that market’s movement then there could be lot of money to be made.
Dr Livingston stated that the continuous and instantaneous nature of live betting made it highly addictive and it is like having a pokie machine in your pocket, only this is more insidious because people get caught up with their sporting engagement.
An example he cited, when sitting at a game, people are full of excitement, they have drunk a few beers with their mates, this leads to the incentive to keep on betting, and often betting amounts of money that they can't afford, and if done continuously over a period of time is very likely to be a considerable amount of money.
Some of the wagering companies in Australia aren’t waiting for the laws to change they are exploiting a loophole in the current law.
The way William Hill's live betting feature works is by allowing punters to place bets with just a click or tap, this is is illegal, however the company argues that gamblers need to simply just turn on the microphone of their phone or computer, which means that the bets are technically placed by a phone call.
This practise was referred to the Australian Federal Police, however they decided not to investigate, which effectively allows the company to thwart the ban.
Ian Fletcher, from the Australian Wagering Council, representing many of the large betting companies that are licensed in Australia, is lobbying the Government to implement change.
Mr Fletcher continued that those offshore providers, lie outside the normal protections that are placed for the protection of consumers in Australia. These are companies who operate in circumstances that don't pay taxes, they do not offer responsible gambling programs, and they do not contribute to the integrity of sport in Australian.
There is a huge potential earnings to be obtained from live betting and it is driving the push to change the online gambling laws with potential estimates that the extra revenue for the industry would be as high as $2 billion a year.
Supporters of the live betting ban have an unlikely ally in their campaign, the horse racing industry.
Horse racing is the only sport in Australia that people are allowed to bet on live, the horse racing industry does not advertise it or encourage it, and they want a blanket ban on all live betting including horse racing.
Racing NSW chief executive, Peter V'landys, said that it would open the door to corruption.
He said that they did not want in-play betting on racing because they believed it could cause major integrity concerns.