The Infraction of Rules
The issue at hand revolves around the use of “Fast/Quick Codes” by these operators. These codes are integral to facilitating in-play betting on sports, a practice that is stringently regulated in Australia. Under the Interactive Gambling Act 2001, in-play betting on sports matches is largely prohibited, with limited exceptions. One such exception is placing the bet over the phone, which requires the player to make an actual telephone call to wager.
These Fast/Quick codes, provided by operators on their digital platforms or apps, embed details such as the event, wager selection, and bet type of an in-play wager. Customers typically use these codes when they call to finalise their bet. However, the ACMA found that Sportsbet, Ladbrokes, Neds, and Bet365 had been generating these codes for each in-play bet via their platforms or mobile apps for at least the 1st customer, instead of exclusively over the phone as mandated by law. This method of operation was deemed a violation of the Interactive Gambling Act by ACMA, as it bypassed the required telephone call.
ACMA’s Response & Enforcement
Despite these violations, ACMA has refrained from taking enforcement action against online gambling Australia operators. This decision comes in light of the steps the four brands have taken to align their Fast/Quick codes with betting rules. Going forward, the codes will be generated prior to events, independent of customer bet selection. These will be generic codes, identical for all customers, thus complying with the regulatory requirements.
ACMA’s approach highlights its pledge to uphold the rules for Australian online gambling services and its readiness to impose criminal charges or civil penalties on those who violate these rules. This stance extends to any parties aiding in rule-breaking activities.
Broader Impact on the Gambling Industry
This development is part of a broader crackdown by ACMA on illegal online gambling activities. Recently, ACMA issued banning orders against eleven unlawful online casinos and requested Australian internet service providers to block access to these sites. These include Greenspin, Slotman, Jeetcity, PayID Pokies, Thunderpick, Candyland Casino, Sector 777, Golden Lion, Digits 7, New Vegas, and Betibet, all of which were found to violate the Interactive Gambling Act 2001. Since November 2019, ACMA has successfully blocked 893 illegal gambling and affiliate websites and has seen 220 illegal services exit the Australian market, demonstrating its effectiveness in curbing illegal online gambling activities.
The Evolving Landscape of Online Betting Regulation
The recent actions of ACMA underscore the strict regulatory environment governing online gambling in Australia. The authority’s decision to forgo enforcement action following the compliance measures taken by the accused companies indicates a balanced approach to regulation, focusing on corrective measures rather than punitive actions. This incident serves as a reminder to all operators in the online gambling industry of the importance of adhering to the established legal framework, especially regarding in-play betting practices.