Australia to Seize Devices of Horse Trainers Who Bet on Races
Racing Australia, the Australian national horse racing regulator, instituted a new policy retroactively effective on August 1 that would allow investigators to seize the desktop, laptop, and tablet computers, as well as smartphones, of those working in the racing industry. The object of the new rule is to catch those affiliated with the Australian horse racing industry who make wagers at offshore online bookmaker sites.
The decision comes two years after the Norfolk Island Gaming Authority authorized a company called BetHQ to take wagers on Australian thoroughbred races. Later, it was revealed that BetHQ had ties to Citibet, the world’s largest black market betting exchange.
It is estimated that Citibet takes $50 billion a year in sports bets and race bets – a number sometimes reported to be $50 billion a year in revenues (not turnover). Either way, it is a huge sum of money.
Racing Australia believes the kind of money would allow Citibet plenty of cash to pay off horse industry employees for inside information. Such cash might incentivize the operators or big time bettors to fix races by using those same employees.
Norfolk Island Regulator Shut Down
The Norfolk Island regulator was shut down in 2017. The tiny Pacific Ocean island, which is located between Australia and New Zealand, had 1,748 inhabitants as of the last census.
The gaming authority on Norfolk Island had 3 employees. Australian officials said the gaming oversight was “barely viable” and “beyond redemption”, so authorities shut down the regulator altogether.
National Consumer Protection Framework
Australia since has passed laws that would make it harder for illegal bookmakers to take wagers from Australian punters: The National Consumer Protection Framework. All of Australia’s state and federal governments agreed to pay in $3 million apiece to enforce the protection framework.
The 11-measure policy includes a ban on betting companies which offer lines of credit. Those same operators are required to send activity statements to their customers, so Aussie gamblers can track their spending on horse bets and sports bets more easily. Bookmakers cannot have a link to payday loans, since problem gambling might lead to the kind of debt that would play into the hands of such predatory lenders.
The National Consumer Protection Framework also includes a national self-exclusion system, which allows players to shut down their play at bookmakers if they find their gaming habits are spiraling out of control. The same policy included a voluntary pre-commitment scheme, so players can set a predetermined bet limits on their gaming activity.
Alan Tudge Threatens ISP Blocking
Australia’s national Human Services Minister, Alan Tudge, hinted that the National Consumer Protection Framework might not be the final measure, if offshore sportsbooks and sports betting exchanges do not comply with the Australian government policies. The Human Services minister said the government could begin ISP blocking, if unlicensed operators continue to skirt Australian state and national laws.
Two months ago, voters in Switzerland voted to allow ISP blocking, even if it set the precedent that the government could censor which types of online sites that Swiss citizens could visit.
Tudge Predicted More Problems from Online Punting
When the policies were put in place in May 2017, Alan Tudge said, “Many Australians enjoy a punt and the agreement today paves the way for stronger protections for them. The rate of problem gambling online is three times higher than elsewhere, and online wagering is growing by 15% per annum. In the future, more problems will come from online punting unless we have better protections in place.”
At the time, the Human Services minister said, “We’re hopeful that these measures will have a profound impact and people will still be able to enjoy a bet, but have greater control and less chance of getting into trouble. With online wagering growing by 15% per annum, the gambling problems of the future will be in this area if we don’t take sensible action now.”
Seizing Phones and Laptops
Fifteen months later, it appears that The National Consumer Protection Framework did not have the “profound impact” Alan Tudge hoped it would. Now the federal government is taking more “sensible action” to stop the bookmakers from penetrating the Australian horse racing industry.
Barry O’Farrell and Stephen Conroy Quotes
In the thinking of Stephen Conroy, Aussie racing employees have nothing to fear, if they are not wagering on illegal offshore bookmaker sites and betting exchanges. People’s devices will be inspected and returned to them, if nothing untoward is happening. The Interactive Gambling Amendment 2016 (passed in August 2017) allows for fines of up to $1 million per day for individuals and $5 million per day for organizations which break the IGA law.
Stephen Conroy, the executive director of Gaming Australia, agreed with Racing Australia’s decision. Justifying the action, Conroy said, “More than $1.3 billion ($965 million) of gambling activity is going offshore from Australia every year, denuding racing authorities of millions of dollars in product fees, hitting prizemoney, sponsorship, and track and training facilities — tough consequences like these for engaging with the illegal offshore industry are a positive development for the racing industry.”
Seizing Android phones, iPhones, and laptop computers is likely to receive criticism, but most of Australia’s top gaming regulators agree with the decision. Barry O’Farrell, the chief executive of Racing Australia, defended his action by saying, “This is simply about prohibiting participants betting with non-approved offshore wagering operators because it’s a significant risk for the industry.”