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Real-time monitoring of sports betting to prevent match fixing looks set to be abandoned amid industry pushback

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A key recommendation of a 2018 independent review into sport integrity and online betting is set to be watered down after pushback from the gambling industry.


The Wood Review of Australia’s Sport Integrity Arrangements called for a “real-time wagering fraud detection and response capability”.

But a recent Regulatory Impact Statement into the proposed Australian Sports Wagering Scheme (ASWS) flagged the government was considering a non-real-time data platform.


The platform is designed so betting companies, sporting bodies and federal investigators can share information about bettors, for example allowing suspicious accounts to be matched across providers.

Betting companies have indicated any scheme would place a significant burden on their operations, and backed a non-real-time scheme.

It Is just one part of the pushback against the ASWS, the centrepiece of the 2018 Wood review.


The gambling industry says it supports the concept of an ASWS but is unconvinced by the government’s current argument for increased regulation.


James Duncan, general manager of external affairs at Responsible Wagering Australia — which counts the majority of sports betting companies in Australia as members — said the country already had strong integrity systems and the main problem was with overseas providers.

The ASWS is being overseen by Sport Integrity Australia, and almost $2 million was committed to its development in last year’s budget.

At the time, Sport Minister Richard Colbeck said the scheme would “bring together regulatory approaches across Commonwealth, state and territories jurisdictions to ensure there is a framework to protect the integrity of sport, and make Australian sporting competitions more resistant to ever-evolving manipulation tactics”.

A proposal has been developed in the intervening period, and plans have been shared with betting companies.

But one month shy of the fourth anniversary of the Wood review’s completion, there is no indication yet when the scheme will be delivered.

A spokesperson for Mr Colbeck said consultation was ongoing and no implementation date had been confirmed.

Understanding the patchwork

Under Australia’s patchwork of sports betting regulation, a bet on the AFL made by someone in Perth, for example, is likely to be governed by laws in four different jurisdictions.

In Western Australia, a point-of-consumption tax is applied that raises revenue for the state government.

An AFL market or “contingency” — say, placing a bet on the winner of a match or the season’s top goal kicker — can only be offered if the betting company has a deal with the AFL, which is governed by law in Victoria, where the governing body has its headquarters. 

Online sports betting is banned at the federal level by the Interactive Gambling Act unless the company is licensed by a state or territory.

Finally, the company’s licence is likely to be provided by the Northern Territory government, which has been the jurisdiction of preference for most operators.

Due to the Northern Territory’s nimble licensing system, Darwin has become the hub for sports betting in Australia.(Sightseeing Tours Australia)

This layered regulation makes the task of reform challenging. The discussion paper for the ASWS in 2020 conceded online in-play wagering, criminalisation of match-fixing, offshore wagering and horseracing had “clear interdependencies with the ASWS” but were deemed outside the scope of the new scheme.

That fact has been picked up by Responsible Wagering Australia, which argues for a more comprehensive — and likely longer — process of reform.

Separately, plans for a new betting act in the Northern Territory, where the bulk of Australia’s online providers are licensed, have been on ice for two years.

A 2018 review found a need for new legislation, and consultation with the industry was undertaken in 2020. However, there has been little evidence of progress since.

“Work has commenced on the drafting instructions which will be provided to industry as part of the consultation process,” an NT government spokesperson said.

Close industry ties

While the sports betting sector is relatively small next to pokies and betting on horseracing, it is a major source of revenue for governments.

In recent years the introduction of a point-of-consumption tax has allowed state governments to raise money from bets placed online by people within their jurisdictions. New South Wales expects to earn more than $100 million per year from the tax.

And betting companies are also contributors to political parties.

Sportsbet spent approximately $170,000 on membership fees for Labor and Liberal business forums last year, according to Australian Electoral Commission records.

A screen shot of the Sportsbet website
Sportsbet, owned by Irish company Flutter, is the most popular site in Australian sports betting.(Giulio Saggin: ABC News)

But the relationship is not just about money. Government wants to work with professional, accountable local betting companies to uphold consumer protections and minimise gambling harm.

A report released in October by Gambling Research Australia included a survey of about 3,000 interactive gamblers. It found close to half had betted using offshore sites, and problem gambling was over three times higher for those using overseas sites compared to those onshore.

RWA’s James Duncan believes the current menu of reform is missing the point.

The federal government’s Regulatory Impact Statement for the ASWS states the next step in reform is the development of a new policy proposal. Four additional steps are required before it becomes operational.

Do you know more? Contact Jack Snape in Darwin: jack.snape@abc.net.au.



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