Aussie Sportsbooks Admit To Punishing Winning Bettors in Government Inquiry

It doesn’t pay to be a sharp – a bettor who is overwhelmingly talented at making picks – in Australia, unless you use an offshore sportsbook. An ongoing parliamentary inquiry into online gambling and betting in the country has revealed that Sportsbet and Entain – and perhaps others – will throttle down the activity of users who are winning too often.

Sportsbet CEO Barni Evans speaks during a hearing on online gaming in Australia
Sportsbet CEO Barni Evans speaks during a hearing on online gaming in Australia. He admitted that the sports betting operator occasionally limits bettors who win frequently. (Image: ABC News)

 

A lot of attention has been given to Australia’s land-based gaming segment over the past couple of years. This is thanks to the antics and corruption at operators like Crown Resorts, Star Entertainment and others.

It’s now time for the government to focus on the online segment, and a series of hearings this week is shedding more light on the activity. At one point, under questioning by House of Representatives committee chair Peta Murphy, Sportsbet CEO Barni Evans let the proverbial cat out of the bag.

Losers Are Friends; Winners Are The Enemy

Under direct questioning, according to Australia’s ABC News, Evans had to field questions about how and why the largest sportsbook in Australia might block a customer. His response suggested that the company has a way of knowing if a bettor is “acting with information that the rest of the market doesn’t have…”

However, sidestepping most attempts for a direct response, he wasn’t able to shed any light on how it was able to make this determination. Sportsbet, according to its own figures, has over 1.2 million users. It would be impossible to know if someone had insider information just because they’re good at picking winners.

Evans added that the winning behavior could “distort” the market, in which case the sportsbook intervenes. That response didn’t satisfy Evans, who replied, “[You] stop people who are consistently winning from betting.”

Entain, which runs Ladbrokes and Neds in Australia, answered some questions, as well, but not to the extent that Sportsbet did. Through Steven Lang, Entain’s Director, Regulatory Strategy and Safer Gambling, the company admitted that it will limit bets for some users.

Lang was the Director of Policy, Gaming and Liquor for the government of Victoria before moving to the private sector and Entain. He added during the hearing, “For some other events where there is less liquidity and less certainty in the markets, we may impose some restrictions on a small number of customers.”

Nick Minchin, the head of the safer gaming lobby group Responsible Wagering Australia, also admitted that sharps could be targets. He emphasized that it isn’t a practice that occurs across the entire industry, but stated that “inevitably, there will be occasions where a customer is excluded.”

Advertising Under Fire

The debate over how much advertising is too much and where it should be available continued during the inquiry, as well. Not surprisingly, there’s a divide over how to implement adequate controls.

Tabcorp, the largest gambling company in Australia, wants to cap ads, especially those other gaming operators create. Entain and others, however, feel that the system works as it is.

The head of the National Rugby League, Andrew Abdo, also believes that the status quo can be maintained, but added that some modifications wouldn’t hurt. These, he explained, need to be based on data analysis and research, not on the whimsical ideals of a few.

Lang made a good point when he responded to the discussion on gaming ads. If Australia is serious about wanting to cut down on black market gambling, advertising is a formidable ally. It allows consumers to understand which platforms hold licenses and, perhaps, reduce the use of offshore sites.

The inquiry will run through the end of this week, but the committee wants a couple of months to present its findings.

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