International edition
May 27, 2019

As it is being urged to consider radical gambling revamp

Australia: Victoria could allow multiple betting shops

Australia: Victoria could allow multiple betting shops
Paddy Power Betfair has expressed early interest in bidding for the Victorian wagering license, which is up for renewal in 2024.
Australia | 02/13/2019

The Australian state is being urged to begin a gambling reform to let more than one company operate retail betting shops.

T

he Premier of Victoria has been argued by Global gambling giant Paddy Power Betfair that fierce competition in the fast-growing online betting landscape has led to greater consumer choice, product innovation and a "better overall experience for wagering customers."

The London-listed firm is the parent company of Australia’s Sportsbet. "It is logical that the same benefits could be enjoyed by retail wagering customers if there was a liberalization in the retail license structure," Sportsbet said.

Online betting is exploding in popularity in Australia – growing 15 per cent a year – with many of the world’s biggest and best-known bookmakers such as Ladbrokes, Bet365 and Paddy Power Betfair having acquired licences to provide online gambling sites there, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

But only ASX-listed Tabcorp, which currently holds the Victorian government’s 12-year wagering licence, is permitted to run parimutuel and fixed-odds betting, and operate off-course retail betting across the state such as TAB shops and pub terminals. After recently merging with its one-time competitor, Tatts Group, the combined company now holds exclusive licences to run retail betting in every state except Western Australia.

Paddy Power Betfair, one of the world’s largest bookmaking businesses, operates hundreds of retail betting shops across the UK and Ireland. The company has expressed early interest in bidding for the Victorian wagering licence, which is up for renewal in 2024.

Gambling-reform campaigners hit out at the call to expand the number of betting shop operators, saying there were “already far too many opportunities for gambling businesses to push their products”.

“It would be a bad move to allow the likes of Sportsbet to set up retail outlets,” said Tim Costello, of the Alliance for Gambling Reform, adding that the bookmaker was a key contributor to the growth in gambling advertising and losses over the past decade.

“Any attempts by Sportsbet to expand its Australian gambling footprint should be vigorously resisted.”

Mr Costello said the next Victorian wagering licence should encourage the winning bidder to close down the network of “increasingly redundant” traditional TAB outlets, “which would at least reduce some of the excessive gambling opportunities offered to the Victorian community”.

In it submission to the state government, Sportsbet also calls on Victorian policy makers to consider severing the link between the holder of the wagering licence and the funding of the racing industry, saying the link was “created in an era of state-based monopoly licences”.

Under the existing licence, Tabcorp operates in a joint-venture with the Victorian racing industry, providing a share of gambling revenue to support thoroughbred, harness and greyhound racing. In 2018, Racing Victoria received $216 million from the joint venture.

“The link creates a licence and funding framework that burdens the licensee with an additional cost burden in excess of competitors, though in return for several advantages on the licensee that are not available to online bookmakers,” Sportsbet said.

“The option of de-coupling the licence from the racing industry funding should be considered.”

The comments are likely to catch the attention of government and wagering officials in Western Australia, where plans are progressing to privatise the state-owned WA TAB betting agency, and the state racing industry is anxious to ensure its funding is maintained.

Paddy Power Betfair is one of the three most likely bidders for the WA TAB, according to industry sources.

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