A local constituent drew my attention to the need for greater regulation of multinational betting companies. I know it is rather unfashionable to go in to bat for punters, but I will do so because a few of them are getting dudded—and that includes me. A story was recently brought to my attention about a man who has been banned from betting by a sports betting company for winning too much. A few weeks ago he won a few thousand dollars from one of these companies on a horserace, and the next day he was banned from betting. This has happened to him before.
He has opened accounts in the names of friends and family, but the company uses IP addresses and other information to work out what is going on and has closed those accounts. His stepson’s account was closed after he won $500 on the same race. My understanding is that every sports betting company with the exception of the TAB employs this system. That is tricky, but what it did next absolutely stinks. The company informed the man that it had launched an investigation into his winnings, and that he would therefore not be able to collect. Stories have emerged of people who have had thousands of dollars in winnings tied up and untouchable for as long as five years because of these alleged investigations.
Society often looks down its nose at gamblers, but some of them are quite accomplished. There are winning punters out there—not many, but they are out there—and the bookies hate them. They simply want to take money from mugs like me. I understand that refusing to let good punters bet is the prerogative of the company in question. I also understand that they are running a business. However, refusing to pay up when they have been fairly beaten is simply cowardly. People who have a win deserve to be paid. The legal system is limited in its ability to address this injustice. These multinational betting companies are not only well resourced, but also difficult to pin down to one jurisdiction. Even if legal action is taken, in most instances the cost cancels out the original win.
We have a broader problem here. The racing industry is interested in turnover, but the companies are interested in keeping their money. Less turnover means less revenue for the New South Wales racing industry. Our small Australian trackside bookmakers are also at a huge disadvantage because they cannot exclude people. If someone walks up and wants to make a bet, he or she must be allowed to do so. Betting companies constantly whisper to us that we should gamble responsibly, yet their business model allows desperate, addicted gamblers to bankrupt themselves through promises of free bets. These same companies have the audacity to ban successful punters. If anything, it is the people incurring consistently heavy losses who should be excluded, not those who win. The Government could lead the way on this issue. New South Wales must work with the other States and the Commonwealth to develop clear guidelines for multinational corporate betting companies trading in Australia. If their behaviour continues to go unregulated the dirty tricks will continue. We all need to work together and pull them into line.