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Live odds to be banned on TV in Australia

It had to happen sooner or later. It wasn't just the wowsers who were complaining, it was the vocal majority and it threatened to be significant issue in an election year. Since Betfair took various Australian governments to court and had the draconian and protectionist advertising legislation repealed, it has become a free-for-all. The advertising industry and broadcasters loved it - with the global financial crisis affecting most other industries, suddenly there was intense competition for advertising slots and premium prices were being paid. Suddenly it became very hard to avoid betting advertising anywhere - on TV, in the papers, online, signage at sporting events or on radio. This may not have been such an issue in other nations, but with plague proportions of pokies (known elsewhere as slot/fruit machines) in pubs and clubs across the land wreaking havoc with many people's lives, dealing with problem gamblers is always high on the sensitivity of the Australian public.

When the advertising ban was repealed, the incumbent bookies dived in headfirst - Centrebet, Sportsbet, Betfair, Sportingbet, the TABs, Betezy, Betstar etc. There was plenty of advertising but it was bearable, at least at that stage. But then the bar was continually raised. In came the international firms - Paddy Power bought up Sportsbet who had purchased IASBet, Unibet purchased BetChoice, Sportingbet bought out Centrebet (and have since been acquired by William Hill) and Bet365 launched under their own name. Bet365, as mentioned here and on Twitter previously, took forever to get up and running, but when they did, sports betting advertising was fast approaching saturation point. At the same time, Tom Waterhouse was emerging as a serious player on the corporate bookmaker front. After years growing his business focusing on racing, he took up a Northern Territory corporate licence, and then used the power and infamy of his surname to be seen and heard everywhere. To add to the sharp resentment against Waterhouse, despite the Australian tradition of the licensed bookmaker being the identifiable name behind the business, all the others had evolved into corporate entities with the likes of Mark Read, Con Kafataris, Terry Lillis, Michael Sullivan, Michael Eskander, Colin Tidy, Matt Tripp etc all either selling up or stepping back within the business, so the company image was a brand, not a Marmite individual who people either loved or despised. By the time Waterhouse saturated the market, the public were ready to burn someone at the stake - and making it all about the individual, rather than the brand, made Tom the perfect target. His Sydney rich boy, metrosexual, immaculately dressed persona combined with his 'ha, ha, ha, I know nothing about sport' advertising themes struck a nerve with many.

Can Waterhouse and Bet365 be blamed for wanting to build successful businesses? On that line, no. But there's a bigger picture here. Sports betting legislation (and gambling legislation in general) in Australia is delicately poised. You have the likes of South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon virtually basing his entire political existence on campaigning against the pokies, where he is entitled to some support, but when sports betting advertising raises its head above the parapet and into regular moans from the public about over-saturation, then it becomes a wider public issue. In a ridiculous piece of political arse-covering last decade, the Federal Govt had to do something to appease the anti-gambling crusaders who were very vocal about pokies at the time. But all the state governments by this time were addicted to the revenue which the plague of poker machines provided. They'd sold off all the state assets so the cupboards were bare unless they introduced another unpopular tax. So to maintain the state govts' junkie-like addiction to the pokies, the Fed Govt made a big song and dance about banning betting in-play online, supposedly to stop people treating matches like these dastardly electronic one-arm bandits and pushing buttons randomly on ridiculous bets such as 'Will Tiger sink this putt?', 'How many runs from the next ball?' etc, which nobody offered at the time, and few do today. The result of banning the targetted 'micro-betting' was that it also killed off betting on the match result whilst in-play, something punters in every other part of the licensed betting world are allowed to do. Not to mention that you could place those 'evil' bets in Australia if you were betting cash in a TAB or over the phone, using the same telecommunication line, to the sports bookmaker who was banned from offering the service online. Complete and utter sap job to save political face while doing nothing at all to solve the pokies addiction problem. And it denied Australian punters the ability to be more responsible in their betting by trading out in-running and locking in a profit when available (or bailing out to cut their losses instead of chasing).

Waterhouse and Bet365 pushed the envelope so far that any hope of self-regulation within the industry was blown out of the water, something which will scar Australian punters for at least another decade. There is now zero hope of the Federal Interactive Gaming Act 2001 being revised to remove the ban on in-play betting online in the foreseeable future. And that is something which those two firms should be directly blamed for (although not completely).

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is desperate to find something which the Australian public will support her on, and thus re-elect her later this year. She hasn't done a great job in power, but current polls and betting markets have it a virtual certainty that the voting public will resort to an even worse prospect, Tony Abbott, for the sake of change. Think the Australian, more moderate version, of the Republican Party in the US. Ultra-conservative, let's take us back to the 60s where everyone went to church, people got married and rarely divorced, and let's do everything to help our rich mates rather than the working class...

Getting a little off-topic now, here's the story of today's announcement.

Gillard moves to ban live odds

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has defended the government's intervention in gambling advertising during live sports broadcasts, declaring it has balanced community concerns with the economic needs of broadcasters.

Ms Gillard formally announced the government's demand that TV and radio networks ban the promotion of live odds and restrict gambling advertisements during sporting matches in a press conference at Kirribilli on Sunday afternoon. Soon afterwards the Australian television industry announced that it had agreed to the demands. Younger Australians in particular should continue to talk about which is the best football team … not which team is at the shortest odds to win a game

"From the moment the players step onto the field from the moment they leave the field there will be no live odds," Ms Gillard said.

Read more:

The first photo in the article is a little odd though - the ban, at least as far as I've seen written, relates to TV broadcasts, rather than scoreboards at matches or on official websites such as that of the AFL.


An excellent forum post originally seen on PuntersParadise by a former colleague and good friend of mine, the founder of Rewardbet.

...from the punter's perspective: What seems to have been a bit lost in all of this, although the episode I think mentioned it in passing, is the history behind it.

Prior to Betfair challenging the "interstate commerce" law in the High Court (2007?) which effectively took down the barriers to all the corporates advertising things were a lot less "in your face" in regards to betting, online and TV of course.

Although that was back then a great thing for Betfair - they had champers in the office at 11am when the news came through, I'm wondering it it has really been a good thing overall?

Prior to that, the cost of acquisition of a customer was quite low. And the churn of customers wasn't that high either. You had a couple of accounts, maybe, and things were quite happy.

That decision created a land-grab for the punter. There was two competing strategies driving this.

a) Betfair had a big budget to advertise and get their brand out into the marketplace
b) SportsBet saw an opportunity to rapidly expand their customer base in order to effectively make it an attractive acquisition target for the inevitable UK invasion once the AUS market was opened up.

So these two competing forces meant saturation advertising coverage, and some outstanding "good offers" for punters. But what happened was the cost of acquiring a customer trebled to unsustainable levels.

SportingBet, Luxbet and the other corporates had to ramp up their offers and spend to match SportsBet or lose market share. Betfair even started to offer ads during the live scoreboard at the AFL (something I never liked, and that decision seems vindicated now). Every possibility was analysed to try and outdo the marketing of others. Naming rights to venues, teams, etc.

So move forward a few years, and what do we have:
a) Betfair has ironically, IMO, created a marketplace where they have great brand awareness but they potentially have effectively outbid themselves in the cost of acquiring customers to a point where maybe their 'low cost' offering can't draw in enough cash to justify the huge cost of acquisition and retention of customers
b) SportsBet played this one really well - they did everything possible to maintain VERY high actives, remember they had promos where it was almost impossible to lose - refund bets, resurrection bets, all sorts of thing just as a short-term strategy so they could quickly grow their customer base and be able to say "hey, we have xx% active customers too" - they quickly got acquired by PP.
c) TW IMO, may be playing the same strategy, although he's really ramped up the costs trying to get as much brand awareness as possible. Not sure how he could be making a cent though? Is he too late in the market?

The operators now have a difficult situation:
a) The turnover fee has come in (you may say that was imposed to stop the rise and rise of the corporates) but nonetheless, it's a major cost to their business
b) They have to cut costs - so we see them closing or restricting a/c of marginal losers (a -1% customer is now costing them -3%) and definitely winners are being shut down
c) Cut-back customers are finding themselves with no choice but to gravitate to the exchange. However, Betfair isn't attracting as many "retail" customers as they once did - well not to the exchange - maybe to the tote extra product - and thus the value in the exchange is drying up with more and more 'cut' customers competing with the already sharp customers. The only saviour is that there's still some O/S money floating through the AUS markets
d) Many customers now have 3, 4 or more bookie accounts. So they are bombarded with offers each week - saturation marketing - and it turns them off, or it makes it very difficult for a really good product or offering to shine through
e) There's been a proliferation of affiliate websites. They are setup essentially to offer ads and gain commission from new signups. That model is now getting government focus.

And finally, we have the PM and other interests saying "enough"! Sports and Racing stories and all sorts of other vested interests out there.

Is it a better place to bet than pre-2007? I'm not so sure. Things seemed a bit simpler then.


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