AFP Announces It Is Investigating In-Play Betting on the Australian Open

Saturday, January 30th, 2016 | Written by April Bergman
AFP Announces It Is Investigating In-Play Betting on the Australian Open

The Australian Federal Police plan on investigating the betting activities at key online sportsbooks as the Australian Open winds down. Authorities want to examine whether in-play betting is legal under Australian gaming laws. Live betting is promoted heavily by the international online sportsbooks and betting exchanges, but a number of Aussie politicians and activists have questioned whether in-game wagers are legal.

The AFP confirmed to the Australian that it is reconsidering whether the in-play betting promoted by Bet365, William Hill, and Ladbrokes are legal. All three UK-based sportsbooks decided to brave the opprobrium and possible sanctions after the AFP earlier said it would not investigate such activity. The Turnbull government now says live betting is under review.

“Breaching the Intent of the Law”

The Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister, Alan Tudge, has the duty of overseeing gaming laws in Australian. Tudge (pictured above) accused the major sportsbooks of circumventing Australian law after taking live bets on the results of the Australian Open, which ends a two-week run this weekend.

Mr. Tudge, who is a Federal Member for Aston and a leader in the Liberal Party, said that the companies are flouting good taste, if not breaking the law. Tudge told the Australian, “At the very least, the wagering companies appear to be breaching the intent of the act. The broader issue of in-play betting is something the government is examining as part of the O’Farrell inquiry.

Christmas Eve Complaint

According to the newspaper, the renewed interest in the legality of in-play betting is due to a Christmas Eve complaint filed with the Australian Communications and Media Authority. The complaint was referred to the AFP, which decided it would revisit the issue.

At the moment, the Turnbull government is remaining canny about their next move, as well as the information they hold. ACWA and the AFP have not said specifically which online gaming companies are being investigated, though the companies listed earlier have had months of ongoing debates with government officials. The government also has not released by the findings of an investigation by former NSW premier Barry O’Farrell into the live betting phenomenon. Members of the government have complained that the Interactive Gaming Act was crafted 15 years ago, before the inception of mobile gaming and up-to-the-second betting capabilities.

What Is In-Play Betting?

In-play betting allows punters to gamble on events in the flow of a game or match. Traditional sports betting tends to involve a wager on the outcome of an event. Some bets might involve a proposition bet on an fixed event in a game, such as the first goal or the winner of the first set. Such wagering could cause trouble for problem gamblers, but that trouble was limited by the small number of possible wagers.

In the mobile age of electronic gambling, sportsbooks can offer live bets on events as they happen. This allows the number of potential wagers in a game to increase a dozen fold or more. Elected officials and voters alike wonder whether such unfettered gambling does not expose the public to great harm.

William Hill Admits to No Wrongdoing

The sportsbooks claim they are adhering to the law. Until they are given a directive by the federal government, they do not appear willing to admit there’s an issue at all.

A spokesman for William Hill said, “Our in-play betting system has not been referred to the AFP, nor do we believe that the reference on the ACMA website updated on the 28th of January 2016 is in relation to our in-play betting system.

Click-to-Call Betting

One of the reasons the in-play betting issue has become controversial is information released by William Hill last year. At an analysts briefing in London in August 2015, William Hill representatives claimed their live betting revenues had increased three-fold since they implemented “click for call” technology.

“Click for call” allows gamblers to make wagers with the use of a smartphone app. Anti-gambling activists and a few MPs claim the betting app is a bridge too far. William Hill thought it had put this issue to rest in October 2015, but that no longer appears to be the case.

Statistics show that tennis is the sport Australian’s wager on the second most, behind soccer. The Australian Open is coming to an end this weekend. The Happy Slam, as the event is called, is Australia’s addiction to the Grand Slam of tennis events for the ATP and WTA tours. Thus, the Aussie Open is one of the biggest windows of betting in the entire year for Australian sports gamblers.