EXCLUSIVE: Fond of spending millions of dollars advertising on television and print media in its attempts to appeal to bogans across Australia, betting giant Sportsbet has gone all quiet this week after being fined for breaking the law again with a number of illegal gambling ads. Serkan Oztuk reports.
A favourite of lads and bogans around Australia thanks to its incessant advertising on televised sporting events, betting giant Sportsbet has found itself falling foul of the law and for once the company has decided to shut up.
Although already considered the nation’s biggest online wagering company, Sportsbet was earlier this month convicted and fined $135,000 over a number of gambling advertising breaches that by-and-large were targeted at problem gamblers.
It’s the second time Sportsbet has appeared in front of the courts this year with the company fined in March to a tune of $22,000, again for wagering advertising breaches.
True Crime News Weekly contacted Sportsbet to ask whether it would like to apologise for its actions and to problem gamblers. We did not receive a response, only silence.
The paltry fines won’t prove much of a hindrance to Sportsbet though as it posted a $550 million profit in 2020 alone, with the company the dominant player in Australia’s online betting space, commanding more than 40% of the total market share.
Despite its self-portrayal as some sort of Aussie yobbo company, Sportsbet is owned by global gambling behemoth Flutter Entertainment. The Dublin-based company also owns Betfair, PokerStars, FanDuel and Paddy Power.
Just two weeks ago, Sportsbet admitted that the months-long Covid lockdowns in Sydney and Melbourne had helped the company grow its average monthly gambling clientele by over 250,000 people so that it now numbers almost 1.1 million across Australia.
“Travel restrictions applied to over 60% of the Australian population during the period, resulting in Sportsbet capturing additional discretionary leisure spend,” a financial report released by Flutter Entertainment in early November stated.
The most recent convictions for Sportsbet followed an investigation by Liquor & Gaming NSW which found that over a six month period between October 2020 and March 2021, the company kept sending gambling ads via email to account holders even after they withdrew consent to receive direct marketing. Repeated attempts to unsubscribe were also unsuccessful due to the confusing functionality of the unsubscribe option, the investigation conducted by Liquor & Gaming NSW found.
Furthermore, an audit of Sportsbet’s social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter found that over a three-week period in November 2020 a number of prohibited gambling ads referring to ‘Treasure Punt’ were identified.
Under the Betting and Racing Act 1998, it is an offence to publish a gambling advertisement that offers any inducement to take part, or take part frequently, in any gambling activity, including an inducement to open a betting account. It is also an offence to unlawfully provide gambling advertisements directly after the betting account holder has withdrawn consent to receive such ads.
“Research by the NSW Office of Responsible Gambling in 2020 revealed the vast majority of the community is not happy with the current style of wagering advertising, with 81% believing gambling advertising increases the risk of people developing a gambling problem,” Liquor & Gaming’s Compliance Director Marcel Savary said.
“Liquor & Gaming NSW consistently expresses concerns to industry about gambling advertising and will continue to monitor compliance with these laws and take strong action for serious and blatant offending.”
In 2021, Liquor & Gaming NSW have endeavoured on somewhat of a compliance blitz against gambling companies, with more than double the number of prosecutions compared to last year. 119 different counts of breaching provisions have been brought against 14 operators, up from 31 counts against seven operators in 2020.
In July, billion-dollar betting company Unibet was convicted for posting three illegal gambling advertisements but was only fined just under $50,000.
Official statistics show participation in most forms of gambling in NSW is declining but online betting is increasing, with 70 per cent of all sports betting and 37 per cent of race betting now carried out online.
It’s believed Australians wager over $25 billion on horse racing and $11 billion on sports betting each year.
A further near $200 billion is spent on poker machines and at casinos each year.
Anyone in need of free and confidential gambling harm support can contact GambleAware on 1800 858 858 or visit gambleaware.nsw.gov.au