Tabcorp Warned After Accepting In-Play Bets

Tabcorp avoided a financial penalty from the Australian Communications and Media Authority after accepting 37 in-play bets earlier this year.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) gave Tabcorp a stern telling off after it caught the gambling giant accepting in-play bets. ASX-listed Tabcorp pointed the finger of blame at a “technical error.”

Tabcorp’s bookmaking operation TAB received and accepted 37 bets on a US college basketball game on January 3, 2021. Betting in-play online is illegal in Australia. Punters can bet in-play but such bets are only allowed over the phone or in retail outlets.

A spokesperson for Tabcorp revealed TAB inadvertently left online betting open because a third-party data provider supplied the incorrect start time. In addition, a technical error in TAB’s software allowed in-play betting.

“Tabcorp regrets that this occurred and has rectified the technical error. Tabcorp supports strong regulation of gambling products, including the ban on online in-play sports betting.”

Losing In-Play Bets Voided But Winning Bets Settled

An investigation into the in-play betting scandal showed the odds remained at pre-game prices. This is different from traditional in-play odds, which fluctuate as the action unfolds. Tabcorp voided all losing bets but settled winning bets, much to the ACMA’s dismay.

ACMA Authority Member Fiona Cameron spoke about why Tabcorp should have voided all in-play bets.

“We know that in-play betting, such as bets on the next point in tennis or the next ball in cricket, can pose a very high risk to problem gamblers. The ACMA considered that the paying out of winning bets by Tabcorp was inappropriate and that all illegal bets should have been voided so that neither operators or punters benefit from prohibited activity. The industry is now on notice that it must have robust systems in place to prevent in-play bets and that the ACMA will investigate evidence of non-compliance with these important consumer safeguards.”

The ACMA decided against imposing a heavy fine, instead opting for a formal warning. ACMA accepted Tabcorp’s reasoning, apology, and commitment to preventing this from happening again.

“These rule have been in place for many years and Tabcorp has had more than enough time to put systems in place to ensure that in-play betting is not offered on local or international sports. If we find breaches of the rules caused by genuine mistakes, in any enforcement response we will take into account whether an operator has voided rather than paid out illegal winning bets.”

The Internet Gambling Amendment Act in 2016

Online in-play betting became illegal to Australians after the passing of the Internet Gambling Amendment of 2001. The act banned in-play betting unless the customer placed the bet via the telephone. This is because lawmakers assumed telephone bets involved a conversation with an operator.

Quick-minded betting companies exploited the rules by utilising click-to-call technology. The technology allows operators to automate betting via a mixture of voice and data.

The Australian Senate passed the Internet Gambling Amendment Bill in 2016 in an attempt to close this loophole. It did this by redefining what a telephone betting service is. Telephone bets must involve spoken conversation.

The bill targets operators, not players, leaving the door open for Australians to bet on international sites.

Takeover Talk Goes Quiet

There have been no fresh bids or inquiry’s into a possible takeover of Tabcorp. American investment firm Apollo Global Management offered $4 billion for Tabcorp’s Wagering & Media plus its Gaming Service business in early May 2021.

The offer, which Tabcorp rejected, came soon after Entain Plc bid $3 billion for the Wagering & Media division. Tabcorp rejected Entain’s approach stating it undervalued the company.

Rumours surfaced regarding a possible big from Fox Corporation. Australia-born mogul Rupert Murdoch owns Fox Corporation. Furthermore, Fox successfully registered the FoxBet trademark in Australia in October 2020, which added fuel to the flame.

However, potential suitors have not made any further bids despite intense media speculation.