The head of Australia’s largest online sports betting company and the chair of a parliamentary inquiry looking into internet gambling have shared a tense encounter in Canberra over whether successful gamblers get blocked from betting.
The inquiry has heard evidence that some companies will reduce maximum bets or block access entirely when gamblers are on a successful run.
House of Representatives committee chair Peta Murphy said she knew someone personally who had experienced this treatment, and pursued SportsBet and Entain, the parent company of Ladbrokes and Neds, on the issue at a hearing in Canberra today.
SportsBet CEO Barni Evans said customers are blocked only in very narrow cases.
“If we believe that they’re acting with information that the rest of the market doesn’t have, and if their behaviour is distorting the market, which means that other customers’ experience is affected, then we will take action,” Mr Evans said.
In a terse to-and-fro, Mr Evans twice repeated a similar response, despite Ms Murphy’s efforts to extract more information from him. Ms Murphy concluded by saying she would accept Mr Evans’s evidence as a “yes, you stop people who are consistently winning from betting”.
“That’s your prerogative,” Mr Evans replied.
Earlier, Entain’s Steven Lang told the hearing that of 698,000 active customers in 2022, 176,000 had made money, and the company was required to offer bets to everyone for horse races. He conceded, however, that bets may be limited for other events.
“For some other events where there is less liquidity and less certainty in relation to the markers, we may impose some restrictions on a small number of customers,” Mr Lang said.
Nick Minchin, chair of the Responsible Wagering Australia lobby group that covers much of the industry, said blocking winning gamblers was not industry practice overall, “but inevitably there will be occasions where a customer is excluded”.
Sports chiefs argue for ‘balance’.
The committee also heard from the CEOs of the AFL and NRL.
A submission to the inquiry earlier in the year from the Coalition of Major Participation and Professional Sports — which includes the NRL and AFL — had pushed back against regulatory change, stating existing regulations were appropriate.
But three weeks ago, AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan expressed sympathy with fans frustrated by betting ads in an interview on Melbourne radio station 3AW.
Today, the AFL boss sought to clarify those remarks, saying there were time pressures in that interview. He argued that betting inducements were a problem, but not general or so-called “brand” advertising for wagering companies.
Mr McLachlan requested that any recommendations put forward by the committee be balanced.
“I don’t need to be convinced about the community sentiment; my job here today is talking about it has to be balanced,” Mr McLachlan said.
“We’re a not-for-profit, we actually spend that money for running access and a pathway into the game for the community and the elite level and the committee needs to understand that.”
The NRL’s Andrew Abdo said he was open to tweaks to regulation, but he wasn’t in a position to make suggestions over exactly where, for example, advertising restrictions could be adjusted.
“Things change, and we are open to listening, learning, absorbing the feedback here, but provided it’s done in a balanced way.”
The ABC reported earlier on Tuesday that the NRL has disproportionately more gambling sponsorships than other codes.
The CEO of the Australian Banking Association, Anna Bligh, surprised the committee when she revealed 500,000 Australians had asked their banks to block their gambling expenditure using a so-called “self-veto”.
“Our most recent check in with our members, which was about six months ago, there were collectively across all our existing banks more than half-a-million Australians who have put a self-veto on their own account,” she said.
The national self-exclusion register BetStop is.
The committee wraps up hearings this week and is expected to deliver its recommendations by the middle of the year.