Tatts boss slams rivals push for live sports betting

Mr Cooke admits it may drive revenues for Tatts but questions whether there is sufficient community support to back the liberalisation of the policy.

But Tatts chief executive Robbie Cooke said there was little public support for in-play betting and the lobbying by many of the international companies was simply to hand them a new source of revenues in the fiercely competitive Australian market.

“There’s no members of the community here agitating to get rid of the IGA,” said Mr Cooke in his first public comments on the review. “I think it’s the big lie in this.”

Sportsbet told the O’Farrell review that if the government retains the status quo, more than $2.2 billion will be lost offshore in lost wagering profits by 2020 representing $100 million a year in forgone tax revenue.

An array of international wagering companies including Sportsbet and Bet365 argue that distinction between phone and online services is now out of date and has failed to keep pace with the betting habits of punters.

“Nobody has shown me any data which actually validates that number,” Mr Cooke said in an interview.

Mr Cooke estimates that with $30 billion gambled in Australia annually and Northern Territory bookmakers accounting for nearly $9 billion of bets placed, nearly all of the spend was already being counted.

The Brisbane-based boss of Tatts also questioned a figure recycled by the O’Farrell inquiry that more than $1 billion is punted on over 2200 illegal offshore sites each year by Australians.

Companies like Sportsbet, owned by Irish betting giant Paddy Power, have warned the government risks forcing more gamblers onto the offshore “black market” if it fails to move in step with rival jurisdictions and allow in-play betting.

Former NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell is leading a review for the federal government into Australia’s online wagering sector which may look to modernise dated legislation created in 2001 under the Interactive Gambling Act.

“As a gambling operator one side of me says fantastic that’s a great opportunity for growth, but do we need the community to start pushing back more on the gambling activity because if the IGA is removed you will see an increase in betting and advertising and the racing industry will be damaged.”

Under the IGA, bets on live matches that have already started can be taken in store at retail outlets or over the phone but not online.

Robbie Cooke says there is little public support for in-play betting.

Robbie Cooke says there is little public support for in-play betting. “This is completely the creation of Northern Territory-based, UK or Irish wagering companies agitating the Australian government to remove the IGA for their own profit driven motives.”

Mr O’Farrell is due to submit his report to Social Services Minister Christian Porter on December 18 with a formal response from the government due in 2016.

“The suggestion there is all this money flowing offshore I think is a false premise,” Mr Cooke said. Photo: Bradley Kanaris

Tatts Group, one of Australia’s largest wagering operators, has lashed its international rivals for pushing to end a ban on live sports betting, arguing there is scant evidence Australians have embraced the betting method by pouring money into illicit offshore websites.

Elise Hawkins

Elise Hawkins

Going to horse racing events on Sunday used to be something that only the elite class of society was able to do. It used to be an activity where men would go with their male friends, their wives and sometimes their business associates to enjoy an afternoon of horse racing.
Elise Hawkins

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