When is a promotions ban not really a ban?

News on 8 Jul 2018

The New South Wales government’s supposed ban on gambling operators offering incentives like sign-up bonuses on online betting accounts appears have previously unannounced carve-outs, according to Australian media reports Monday following the publication of guidelines by Liquor and Gambling NSW.

The guidelines admit that the new prohibitions “are not intended to be enforced” in relation to advertisements on existing platforms that deal solely with racing content.

That penalises the Aussie operations of online bookies like bet365, Betfair, CrownBet, Sportsbet, Unibet and Ladbrokes, but leaves an open field for racing only sites like Racenet.com.au and Punters.com.au (the latter owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp Australia) as observers have been quick to point out.

New South Wales Racing Minister Paul Toole’s rather torturous explanation for the exemption takes some understanding; here’s what he said in a statement:

“The vast majority of people who watch racing do so to wager,” he said. “The decision relates to the entire NSW racing industry and not any particular businesses. Racing is exempt from certain restrictions, including the recent changes to betting odds promotion and gambling advertising during live sports broadcasts on television and radio.”

Operators are now probably pinning their hopes for a more sensible approach on a formal review of the new rules by Liquor and Gambling NSW which is scheduled a year hence in July 2019.

In the meantime, the A$18,000 fine imposed on Neds.com.au earlier this year for publishing illegal inducements (bonuses matching first deposits) presents a stark warning that the legislation will be enforced.

The exemption has also triggered political responses, with Greens Party spokesman Justin Field noting that the regulator had admitted that it does not intend to enforce the law when it comes to the racing industry.

“This is a special carve-out for the vested interests in the racing industry and another example of the undue influence of gambling interests in NSW,” he claimed. “It’s clear the government never intended to take genuine action against inducements to gamble and work to reduce gambling harm.”

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