Cash bonuses and player credit under threat for Australian punters

  • RWA introduces new measures to appease Australian government
  • Measures include reduced advertising, removing credit lines and banning cash sign-up bonuses for first-time players
  • William Hill and Ladbrokes not yet signed up to scheme

Australians who like a flutter can expect to see some changes as measures are set to be put in place to appease a government increasingly pressured to take action in the industry.

Stephen Conroy's Responsible Wagering Australia is aiming to be seen to be making concessions in the gambling sector to appease the Australian government.
Stephen Conroy’s Responsible Wagering Australia is aiming to be seen to be making concessions in the gambling sector to appease the Australian government.

Responsible Wagering Australia (RWA), the national regulatory body, is reported ready to implement a series of concessions in order to show the industry can be self regulating.

The compromises are set to be made in the wake of the decision last week by the country’s Senate to completely outlaw online casinos by shutting loopholes, as well as closing out other loopholes to ban in-play sports betting. Another headline was the effective shutting out of real-money online poker games.

So what can players expect?

Three of the RWA’s concessions

  • Cutting down on advertising, particularly during sports events
  • Cutting credit to players
  • A ban on ‘sign up offers’ like cash bonuses

The RWA, headed up by former politician Stephen Conroy, aims to improve the image of gambling firms in Australia, which have been the subject of scrutiny under Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberal government. The government recently signalled its intention to cut down on gambling advertising airtime during major sporting events and the RWA has, according to Fairfax Media, agreed to work towards achieving this goal.

In addition to reduced marketing budgets, the RWA has also indicated its members will stop one-off promotions to new members, which include things like cash bonuses, claiming that “customers should decide to join a wagering operator without a financial incentive,” as well as prohibiting credit to players.

But will all the big operators comply?

Several big players are signed up to RWA including Unibet, Bet365 and Betfair, who have given their approval to the scheme. But William Hill and Ladbrokes have both refused to be drawn on whether they wish to comply. They have also not detailed their official position to the news media as yet.

While many sites have agreed to the proposals, William Hill is reportedly not committed to reducing the amount it spends on advertising. Some operators were annoyed at the Wagering Council’s (RWA’s predecessor) failure to prevent legislation banning in-play sports betting. It is believed that ban has cost bookmaking sites as much as half a million Australian Dollars, ($380,000) on a weekly basis.

What does the refusal mean for gamers?

The Australian gambling sector is seen as highly lucrative. It was recently found to have the biggest gambling losses per person anywhere in the world. This has also added pressure on the perceived need for regulation, or even further legislation.

The RWA initially introduced the concessions as a means of recapturing the “social licenses” of its members and improving the industry’s image in the eyes of the government. A spokesperson for the body appeared frustrated that not all operators were signing up.

“Our members are leading the industry and setting an example through their commitments to consumer protection, responsible gambling and harm minimisation measures,” explained an RWA spokesperson. “This is in contrast to other operators that do not demonstrate the same commitment to working with government and other stakeholders to improve regulation and consumer protection.”

The RWA is expected to enforce its new rules within the coming weeks.

OUR VERDICT

With Australians on top of the world when it comes to betting losses per person, particularly on ‘pokies‘ (Australian term for a slot machine), it is no surprise to see the government come under pressure to legislate.

The RWA wants to get in ahead of any potential legal heavy-handedness and show the industry can self regulate, by putting forward these concessions. It is something the average Australian punter must learn to accept in the current climate. It is a shame that those acting responsibly are being penalised by having sign up bonuses taken away, as well as access to credit, but it is a sign of the political mood music currently.

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