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Tabcorp Warned by ACMA for Accepting ILLEGAL Bets

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Online gambling activity has been at the forefront of many legal actions taken by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) recently. In the past few months, it has continued adding a variety of online gambling platforms to its blacklist for being based offshore and not possessing an Australian license and has targeted websites that advertise these online casino sites and drive players to them as well. A large number of online websites, both those providing gambling services and those promoting offshore platforms, have been added to the blocked list by the ACMA already.

Of course, the Authority also exerts a heavy hand when policing licensed gambling firms too. One of its more recent moves has been to issue a formal warning to Tabcorp Holdings Ltd (Tabcorp). Following an investigation into the brand, it was found to have accepted a total of 37 wagers on illegal online in-play markets relating to a United States college basketball game. While online sports betting is a possibility in Australia, it is illegal for bets to take place on a sporting event once it has commenced under the provisions of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001. This marks the first time that such action has been undertaken by the ACMA relating to in-play betting.

ACMA Warns Tabcorp

A Complaint Leads to an Investigation and the Warning

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The ACMA said that it had received a complaint regarding the Tabcorp wagering that had occurred during the basketball game. It was this that prompted the authority to investigate, and it promptly discovered that 37 illegal bets had been placed on the event, which occurred on Jan. 3, 2021.

Speaking on the official warning handed out to Tabcorp, a member of ACMA, Fiona Cameron, said the following:

We know that in-play betting, such as bets on the next point in a tennis match or the next ball in cricket, can pose a very high risk to problem gamblers. These rules 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.

Fiona CameronFiona Cameron Is a Full-Time Member of the ACMA

Tabcorp serves as Australia’s largest gambling company, employing over 5,000 people. As such, it offers the largest selection of lotteries, Keno, sports betting products, and more to the country. It is also listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX). Not only that, but it was one of a couple of brands that tendered submissions to Parliament in support of the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill in 2017. Yet this has not made it completely resistant to the powers of the ACMA.

Granted, it could be said that if it was any other gambling company, a fine would possibly have been handed out instead of a simple warning. Perhaps the support for the more stringent gambling legislation in Australia, which has surely helped to bolster Tabcorp’s own income from Australian residents, has provided some assistance to it in this situation as well.

Tabcorp Responds to the Formal Warning

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Tabcorp was aware of the situation prior to ACMA conducting its investigation on the matter. It said that betting on the event was not closed in time due to them having the incorrect match information, which came from a third-party provider. Following on from this, a technical error was experienced by Tabcorp, which led to them accepting the 37 wagers after the game had commenced.

Upon realising that the mistake had been made, Tabcorp then went on to pay out the winning bets, while also refunding the losing wagers. One bet was refunded only after the ACMA began its investigation into the error.

ACMA Finds Fault With Tabcorp's Response to the Situation

Ms. Cameron, commenting on the outcome of the investigation culminating in a formal warning, said that the actions Tabcorp undertook to deal with the illegal bets were considered. At the same time, the company’s commitments to improving its systems and processes were also noted. An alternative enforcement option would have been to impose a fine on Tabcorp under an infringement notice or to apply to the Federal Court for the imposition of a civil penalty or injunction.

Because Tabcorp had paid out the winning bets to players who had made the winning wagers during gametime, the ACMA considered this to be an illegal action. It said that all bets placed in that timeframe should have been voided. In this respect, neither the operator nor the bettors would have benefited from what was deemed as “prohibited activity.” Ms. Cameron went on to say that “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.”

She finished off by stating that if the ACMA finds the official rules to have been breached by any company in what is determined as a genuine mistake, then this will be taken into account. At the same time, the actions of the operator to void such bets rather than pay them out will also be considered in a final ruling.

Tabcorp Has Been in Trouble in Multiple Jurisdictions

It may seem like the ACMA is taking a hard line with Tabcorp (although potentially not hard enough considering a fine could have been handed out), but it is not the first time that this company has faced the music. Earlier on in 2021, the UK-focused betting division of the conglomerate was in hot water with the country’s Gambling Commission.

Penalties of £84,174 were slapped on the Australian company, stemming from the Tabcorp subsidiary Sun Bet, which had a controversial role in a pie eating incident that ended up being broadcast on live television during the FA Cup in 2017.

Sun Bet began offering odds of 8-1 to its registered users on whether the substitute goalkeeper for Sutton United at the time, Wayne Shaw, would finish an entire pie while the team’s game against Arsenal was taking place. Shaw did successfully eat the pie during the fifth-round match, which ended in a draw, and the goalie was served with a fine of £375 and a two-month suspension for his actions. He later resigned from his substitute position with Sutton United.

It was this move by Sun Bet that led to the Commission punishing Tabcorp while a second market also saw it penalised for offering odds on whether a streaker would run onto the pitch. This, the Commission warned, was a potential inducement for someone to commit a criminal offence. It went on to say that Tabcorp was in danger of losing its UK license should such markets and odds be offered again in the future. It didn’t take long for the Commission to find additional issues with Tabcorp either. The investigation discovered that over 100 bettors had been allowed to place bets through duplicate accounts, despite asking to be barred from gambling.

Poker, Casino and Sports Betting Options in Australia

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Even though the ACMA is on a rampage throughout the world at the moment, penalising and banning access to sites here and there, Aussie players do still have options. Our guide to online poker Australia is a great place to start.

Through that guide, you can find reviews of the top platforms that still support registrations from within Australia. They are all upstanding organisations with a commitment to honest gameplay and the faithful payment of winnings.

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