Last week the Northern Territory Government said it would force licensed bookies to stop offering online “in-play” betting on sporting matches and horse races which had already started. These “click to call” services let Australian punters bet via the internet or via a smartphone app, once a live sporting contest has begun through a “virtual” online call.

Tabcorp and Tatts held off embracing in-play due to the murky legality of these “virtual calls”, and left it open to the foreign players.   A Deutsche Bank analyst said foreign bookies such as William Hill and Paddy Power would lose a key selling point for gaining new customers when this service loophole is finally closed.

The Federal Government had already announced it would move to shut down the system in late April. But many overseas bookmakers, including William Hill, Bet365, Sportsbet and Unibet, were this month still operating the in-play systems.

It is understood the ­Northern Territory Racing Commission indicated the companies offering the ­‘click-to-call’ ­services licensed in the territory must now be stopped to head off future action by the federal government.

In a letter to the overseas gaming operators, NT Chief ­Minister Adam Giles said that, by “taking immediate ­action on this matter, the Northern ­Territory Government may head off future ­action by the federal government which may ultimately ­result in it ­taking control of regulation of the online ­wagering ­industry”.

The Northern Territory houses four of the five ­bookmakers offering online in-play betting in Australia and ­gains revenue and employment from having the operators based locally. UK based Ladbrokes is based on Norfolk Island and they have also withdrawn their in-play /online wagering product.

It is understood the federal government had also spoken to the Norfolk Island gaming authority given it is a territory of Australia and therefore a betting jurisdiction.

Bookmakers have been told they must stop offering the service within 28 days.