That’s the warning the Australian Wagering Council (AWC) made to the country’s gambling sector. According to the council, the government risks losing at least 60c of every dollar wagered to international bookmakers by the end of the decade if it fails to effectively regulate the growing sports betting market.
Currently, Australia is considered to have one of the largest “grey” betting markets in the world, with 51 international operators rivaling local bookmakers for a sport betting pool that’s worth at least $1.6 billion in 2015, and is forecast to reach AU$2.3 billion by 2020.
This has prompted the government to revamp its online betting laws, starting with a review headed by former NSW premier Barry O’Farrell. And now, AWC decided to throw in its two cents’ worth—one that is backed by a commissioned study by international consultant H2 Gambling Capital.
The study—a copy already sent to O’Farrell’s team—charts a shift from retail and telephone gambling to online betting. It also identified a probation on “in-play” online betting as a key driver behind the popularity international gambling sites.
A prohibition in the 2001 Interactive Gambling Act allows bettors to legally place their online, in-play bets on non-racing events with international gambling sites.
“For too long, parliaments have passed up the opportunity to respond to shifts in consumer demand for wagering, arising from the mobile Internet and the globalization of sports. As a result, Australians have chosen to bet with illegal, offshore wagering operators. This review marks the chance for real progress in the regulation of the wagering sector in Australia,” said AWC Chief Executive Ian Fletcher in a statement.
Aside from the potential AU$2.3 billion losses in revenues, the government might also have to bid farewell to a further AU$100 million per annum in tax dollars, plus economic opportunities, according to the industry body.
The solution, Fletcher said, is a “nationally-consistent” regulation and a “properly resourced national regulator” that will “police and enforce laws against the unlicensed, offshore operators who will inevitably continue to attempt to target Australian customers.
The AWC, which represents bet365, Betfair, Sportsbet, Unibet and William Hill, said it is continuously advocating the removal of the outdated prohibition.
“The time has come,” the industry body stated. “There is a tragic sense of déjà vu around all of this. The review has a real opportunity to get this sector onto the right regulatory footing.”
Australia currently has 30 online gambling sites, but government officials said only about 40 percent of the industry’s $1.6 billion revenue enters the country’s coffers. The rest goes to more than 2,000 international websites that are out of the government’s reach.
With the review and possible update to the existing online gambling law, the government expects to get tougher legislation that will deal with internationally licensed online operators whose websites run in the country.
O’Farrell and his team has until Dec. 18 to submit their recommendations to the federal government.