Online punting and bookmakers are the flavour of the month with news editors, with a number of issues forcing their way to the front pages of the paper.

Today we take a look at the current hot topics, but most importantly: whether they actually have any impact on you, the punter.

TAB / Tatts Merger

As you probably already knew, industry giants and tote operators Tabcorp and Tatts Group have agreed terms on a merger that will create… an even bigger giant.

The proposed merger is currently before the Australian Competition and Consumer Commisssion (ACCC), who must rule whether it would have the impact of substantially lessening competition in the marketplace.

For punters, a merger would probably see some rationalisation of the TAB.com.au, Luxbet (Tabcorp) and UBET (Tatts) brands.  Fundamentally, this isn’t a good thing and will lessen competition.  Whether it has any substantial effect is debatable, given the significant number of other bookmaking players now in the market.

It could also lead to a single, national tote, with the three current totes being controlled by the same body (though don’t count on that, as it would require re-negotiation with state racing authorities).  Whether that’s good for punters probably most depends on whether tote takeout rates reduce and thus offer a better return to punters.

Other bookmakers and racing bodies are making submissions to the ACCC, based on their own various self-interests.

Impact on punters?  Without wanting to sit on the fence, it is hard to say at this point whether a combined TAB / Tatts would ultimately improve the lot of punters.  The devil will be in the detail.

Study of Betting Restrictions

In somewhat of a surprise, it was revealed last week that in response to Recommendation 15 of the O’Farrell Report into online wagering, the Federal Government has commissioned the Australian Gambling Research Centre to conduct a study into betting restrictions by bookmakers, and their impact on the industry.  The study will examine current literature on the subject and interview a number of punters about their experiences.

The holy grail here is clearly a fair and balanced minimum bet rule to be enforced nationally across all markets.  Will this review lead to that?  At this stage, it’s hard to tell exactly what the study will reveal or what the government will actually do with it.

In any case, in an area which is so lacking in hard evidence and data, it’s good to see something being put on the public record.  If nothing else, it starts to highlight the issue.

Impact on punters? Positive

Punters Tax

The much-talked about proposal for a ‘Punters Tax’ came about some time ago: with most corporate bookmakers based in the Northern Territory due to favourable tax arrangements, state governments are increasingly concerned that they’re missing out on any tax on punting proceeds.

The ‘Punters Tax’ proposal is for an additional point of consumption tax by state governments based on where the punter resides, rather than where the bookie is based.  It’s even been signed into law in South Australia, where it’s due to start on July 1st.

The Punters Tax in this form is bad, bad news for punters.  It’s an additional impost on bookmakers which will cut into their margins and thus can only result in higher market percentages and poorer odds.  This could lead to punters in different states being offered different odds due to state-based taxes.

But in a positive development last week, budget discussions have led the State and Federal governments to come together to look at a national approach.  This could include the GST from betting being reallocated directly to the state where the punter resides, rather than an additional tax being placed on top of the GST by state governments.

Impact on punters? These latest developments are undoubtedly a positive for punters, hopefully negating the need for additional state taxes on bookmakers.

Bookmaker Advertising

The Federal Government has also moved to limit the flood of bookmaker advertising that has hit TV in recent years.  Betting and odds advertising will be banned on live sporting broadcasts before 8:30pm.  The racing codes are excluded from this.

Impact on punters? A lot of noise about this one, but we’ll say it’s a fairly neutral outcome for punters.  Odds etc are easy to obtain from a computer or phone, as are any offers from bookmakers.  In the scheme of things, it shouldn’t make much difference for the more serious punter.

Sportsbet ‘roided up

And a lighthearted one to finish… Sportsbet are being strongly rebuked by politicians and talking heads everywhere for their latest TV advert, which features convicted steroid user and disgraced Olympian Ben Johnson promoting their new Android app.

Whilst taking the piss out of oneself is thought by many to be a great Australian tradition, clearly not everybody agrees.  ASADA has even lodged a complaint with advertising authorities, claiming the advertisement “belittles the achievements of clean athletes“.  Yes, really.

Impact on punters? Neutral (though the new app looks like a positive for Android users!)


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