• Everyone wants to bet

    In today’s world, Aussie wagering is in competition with Crypto, NFT’s, micro share-trading apps like Robinhood and Stake, and eSports – and the generation next are all over them and the wagering industry needs to tap into this fervour. 

    99% of ‘punters’ who invest in Crypto, NFT’s and micro-shares don’t care about the underlying asset, they just want a capital gain, or put more simply, a winning bet. There is so much value in this sentiment for wagering to unlock – but we need to make some structural changes.

    The new rock stars in Australia are tech entrepreneurs. The media can’t get enough of them and everyday they sit on front pages of our newspapers with big grins on their faces as they have been announced as another billionaire founder of another multi-billion dollar company – and that’s great, their success is great for them and great for Australia. Big business, private investment and governments can’t throw enough money at them to help them create software and technology that can change the world. The message to them is simple; innovate and make the fastest most advanced tech you can, because Australia will be better for it.

    In contrast Aussie punters have to operate in a marketplace where encouragement is lacking and technological advancement that they can create and use is obsolete. Of course regulators and governments realise we fund the industry and they do a lot to help us – but they need to go further and recognise and champion our talents like they do tech entrepreneurs.

    Further, Wagering should invite all the private equity firms, hedge funds, investment banks and sophisticated investors of the world to come and trade on Aussie wagering. They are betting in telephone numbers on all other financial markets so why not invite them to have a crack at trying to find profit in Aussie betting markets. All it can result in is more turnover, and hence revenue for the wagering industry. Australian wagering needs to think free-market macro, not closed-market micro.

    The four concepts below will allow the above notions to happen, and make the Australian wagering market a fair, progressive financial market that grows revenue for participants, regulators and governments.

    A National Bookmakers Betting Obligation

    Current Minimum Bet Limits (MBL) that are administered by various principal racing authorities (PRA’s) would be superseded and renamed National Bookmakers Betting Obligation (NBBO) and would be formed and legislated by the Federal Government, and then administered the Dept. of Social Services.

    The MBL that was first introduced by RNSW in 2014 and then adopted by most of the racing industry has been great and kept many punters in the game, but it is in need of updating to better reflect current market conditions. It also feels that the PRA’s find the MBL a burden on their resources. It will  be interesting to see if PRA’s would support a move to a NBBO.

    I do not underestimate the enormity of implementing a NBBO. It’s a lot of work for a lot of people, but the main sporting codes in Australia are okay with making betting become an intrinsic part of Aussie sporting culture, so the ethics and integrity that these codes are maniacal about maintaining must cross over to the betting markets as well.

    The NBBO would also give big consideration to bookies too, protect giants like Sportsbet from fraud or market manipulation but also give new bookies just starting out a chance to open and grow their business without the sharper punters picking them off. Maybe the NBBO does not apply to new bookies until they have been in operation for 6 months.

    I outlined the path to NBBO in this open letter to Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth https://twitter.com/sothegreatgame/status/1559107332969152513?s=20&t=Me0L9deOzAjp3aIuOy1ipw

    Current issues with the MBL

    Too many rules

    The biggest issue with current MBL’s is there are too many rules and they are either outdated or give bookmakers far too much advantage.

    The NBBO needs to have as few rules as possible. The more rules the more a minority of bookies will exploit rules to try and reject bets and make life difficult for punters.


    Currently punters aren’t allowed to use any automation or robots to help them place bets, yet bookies are.

    Punters work incredibly hard doing the form and within seconds of them entering the market to have a bet every bookie in Australia knows the price is going off and can use the punter’s intellectual property for their own benefit by firming the horse before the punter can reach them to have bet. The FAIR PLAY solution here is to allow bookies to use automation but allow punters to as well.

    I have heard from PRA’s that they think that allowing sophisticated punters to use automation will lead to less value for recreational punters as a sophisticated punter could take all bookies out via automation at $6.50, and the horse would then be $5.00 – and this isn’t fair on recreational punters. But that situation is happening already, a sophisticated punter gets on with 3 or 4 bookies at $6.50 if they’re lucky and within 10 seconds every other bookie in Australia is $5.00. The recreational punters miss out, as does the sophisticated punter who was hoping to get on with 10-15 bookies and be on to win $10-15k. 

    A further point is the syndicates like Humbleton etc.. have used automation to place all their tote bets right at the last second for decades now – which leads to odds collapsing for recreational punters, which is the exact thing PRA’s say they don’t think should happen. 

    Bookies will always be faster than punters with automation, but at least allow us to compete somewhat. The present situation for punters is untenable.

    Petty bookies

    A very small minority of bookies do all they can to disadvantage punters. An example is if a punter sends a bet through that is $1.00 over the $1,000 limit, they reject the bet in its entirety and then turn the price off – embarrassing conduct. 

    The new NBBO rules need to completely eradicate this kind of behaviour. It also plays into the point about too many rules – the more rules the more bookies will try to exploit them.


    Intercept is when a bookie doesn’t automatically accept your bet, they say it’s processing and it spins around until they come back with you with a confirmed or rejected bet. I understand bookies need to be allowed this feature. But again, a small minority abuse the use of it and try to reject bets based on MBL rules – but they apply these rules after the bet has been struck on their website. It’s akin to a punter having up to 30 seconds after they place a bet to be able to cancel it. Imagine how good that would be!

    Lengthy wait times

    In my experience it can take a long time to get a ruling.

    If we had a NBBO, a small team of complaint handlers who have a deep understanding of the betting landscape and also the rules of the NBBO, would be able to quickly and efficiently deal with complaints. This would be so much better for bookies and punters.

    In-play betting

    The wagering industry constantly talks about engaging generation next. Telling gen next they can’t bet in-the-run in a sports game is against everything they are about – they live a 24/7 life, consuming every part of life on the go on their phones.

    Gen next want to be watching Calvin Harris headline Festival X while they hold their phone in their palm with a Big Bash League playing picture-in-picture over the top of the Tab app that’s open on the in-play betting market for the game. And maybe they close out a position they already had when a wicket falls or maybe they have a bet when they feel the time is right. Their mates are leaning over their shoulder, dancing and watching too. Really good fun. That’s the customer experience they want.

    Allowing in-play got rejected last time on a responsible gambling narrative. We now have the world’s best practice with responsible gambling. Allowing in-play will have no larger impact on problem gambling, it will just let wagering keep up with all the other forms of “gambling” in society, like crypto, NFT’s etc…

    And back in 2015 when allowing in-play was a discussion topic TabCorp and the Clubs lobby pushed hard against. But they have told us via the Aussie Fair Play Coalition they want the industry to be even now, so you would hope they support the industry having in-play. Poker machines are in-play 24/7 and you can bet in-play at Tab retail outlets via EBT’s. Seems fair that the in-play wall comes down for all other bookies too.

    A national tote

    The totes around Australia are withering on the vine. In TabCorp’s latest investor presentation which runs for 40 pages, there is not one mention of the tote. Hard to believe but true. 

    I would like to seek clarification from PRA’s and also TabCorp on where the totes are going. I realise it’s a very complex issue and sensitive commercial interests are at play around the topic, but punters need to have a better understanding of what’s happening with reinvigorating the tote.

    The best way forward seems to be one national tote, and corporate bookies are intermediaries for the tote operator, and take a clip on every bet, but all money ALWAYS goes into the national pool. I will be getting feedback from PRA’s and wagering operators on this idea.


    BetFair needs to be recognised as an integral part (and be taxed as an exchange, not a bookie) of the wagering ecosystem. And recognised for the impact it’s had on the huge amount of product fees and taxes collected by principal racing authorities and governments. BetFair is the defacto pricing system for the industry and allows bookies to bookmake  on “auto pilot” for a significant amount of time. Because Betfair is the most efficient market in the wagering landscape, bookies and punters rely on it to help price markets. Without it there would be less turnover I’m sure.

    That’s all. Punt hard, have fun. Cheers!

  • The “Fair Play” Coalition

    The Fair Play Coalition –  which is a lobby group of the Clubs sector and TabCorp –  has waded into the media landscape of late. Their narrative is that they aren’t getting a fair go in the current wagering industry.

    I have researched their arguments and found them to be flawed and hypocritical. And the concerning part is they have the ear of state Govt’s. –  who unfortunately have a very basic understanding of the industry. State Govt’s. are now beginning to act unilaterally, and without consulting the wider wagering industry, and ratchet wagering taxes up on corporate bookies. This will lead to less value for punters as the increase in taxes will be passed on to punters by way of higher percentage markets – Dean Shannon (head of Ladbrokes and Neds) has confirmed this in the media. 

    Worse odds leads to punters losing their money at a faster rate – they enjoy their punting sessions less, and some might give it away all together. The industry needs to remember this.

    I don’t mind wagering taxes rising when all sides of the debate have been presented and a rational decision can be made, but in this case that hasn’t happened.

    Below is Fair Play Coalition’s main argument as listed on its website and a link to it.


    It’s time for fair play.

    Last year, whilst many Australian businesses suffered through COVID-19, foreign-owned bookies, like Sportsbet and Ladbrokes, shipped more than half a billion dollars of profits out of the country.

    It’s because foreign-owned bookies are taxed less.

    It means Australia could keep losing more than half a billion dollars overseas every year.

    This money should be going back into Australian jobs, Australian industries and Australian communities.

    Here are my responses:

    Last year, whilst many Australian businesses suffered through COVID-19, foreign-owned bookies, like Sportsbet and Ladbrokes, shipped more than half a billion dollars of profits out of the country.

    In August 2016 TabCorp launched a UK based bookmaking operation called SunBets, with then Tabcorp chief executive David Attenborough saying: “Entering the UK market in partnership with News UK is an exciting opportunity for Tabcorp as we take our capability into the A$7 billion UK online gambling market”.

    By mid 2018 SunBets had failed, and TabCorp ended up losing $100s of millions on the venture. If SunBets had succeeded the Fair Play Coalition wouldn’t exist, as TabCorp, like Sportsbet, would have filled up on the sugar hit that Covid was, and they would have quietly shipped all the profits back to Australia to be distributed to their shareholders.

    Tabcorp were all in on globalisation until now, when it doesn’t suit them.

    It’s because foreign-owned bookies are taxed less.

    Foreign owned bookies are taxed less than TabCorp because TabCorp has a monopoly on both the tote (which carries no trading risk, unlike fixed odds) and retail outlets across most of Australia. Foreign-owned bookies would be happy to pay the same tax as TabCorp if they were allowed retail outlets, and allowed to conduct a tote service. It’s deeply misleading to not point this out.

    It means Australia could keep losing more than half a billion dollars overseas every year.

    A vast amount of TabCorp’s profits are also “lost” overseas. TabCorp’s shareholder structure is very similar to that of Sportsbet’s parent company, Dublin based Flutter Entertainment. 7 of the top 10 shareholders of TabCorp are dividend hungry foreign investment houses. 

    Ironically, Flutter Entertainment’s largest shareholder, with a significant 10% stake, is  the deeply private Australian based and owned Caledonia Investments. Caledonia manages money for Australia’s wealthiest families. So Sportsbet’s most important and influential shareholder is Australian. 

    This money should be going back into Australian jobs, Australian industries and Australian communities.

    Last financial year Sportsbet had revenue of $2.3 billion and put $1.52 billion of that back into the Australian economy by way of product fees, taxes, employee wages, marketing costs and sponsorships etc…. And then of the approx $750 million profit they achieved they then have to pay company tax. To put some context to this, Sportsbet contributed more in percentage terms  to the Aussie economy than the Commonwealth Bank did – Comm Bank had revenue of $24 billion on $11 billion of expenses.

    Poor strategic vision by TabCorp

    In April 2021 UK based Entain (owner of Ladbrokes) lobbed a $3.5 billion bid for TabCorp. It was rejected by TabCorp. TabCorp’s current market capitalization is $2.36 billion, so TabCorp could well be in play again as a takeover target very soon.

    Being part of the Fair Play Coalition puts Tab shareholders in a poor strategic position because no matter what price Entain or another foreign company offer, TabCorp must reject the offer based on their membership of the Fair Play Coalition, but there is no way they will reject it . When the money is serious enough the Fair Play Coalition and ideals will be forgotten and the bidders and TabCorp will be thrashing out a multi billion dollar deal.

    Fair Play’s call to action

    On their website Fair Play Coalition go on to ask punters to “click here to support the campaign”. I have considered their campaign thoroughly, and yet am defeated when trying to understand why punters should support this campaign. I see nothing in it for us.

    Considering the playing field is now level – as TabCorp keep telling us – below is what I believe would give punters a better marketplace and betting experience, and should be added to the campaign if they want our support:

    1. A national tote run by TabCorp. All other wagering operators are allowed to offer tote odds to their clients but every cent bet must go into the national pool – wagering operators are banned from holding the money themselves. TabCorp then offers those wagering operators a rebate on the turnover. And those operators can then offer part of the rebate to their clients. The tote is a mess and is just about dead – it needs emergency attention. The industry needs to go to one tote then all join together to promote it and reinvigorate it.
    2. Cheaper access to race vision. TabCorp has a virtual monopoly on racing vision. Now corporates pay as much as TabCorp for the racing product, make it more affordable for bookies to show the vision they are taking bets on. And also have the vision on free-to-air TV. 
    3. Allow in-play betting for all wagering operators. In today’s digital world it is embarrassing that punters can’t bet in-the-run on sporting events. TabCorp and the Clubs Lobby railed hard against in-play betting when it was last up for discussion via the O’Farrell review of 2015. In-play is what punters and wagering operators want – we are all equal now apparently, and TabCorp doesn’t deserve any special consideration, so let’s have it.
    4. Introduce a national minimum bet limit on sport. It’s been very successful in the racing codes. It’s had no impact on turnover or bookies profit. And most importantly it’s given the market integrity. In November 2017 the Federal Govt. asked the Social Services Department to evaluate the idea of a national MBL on sport, they spent months researching the issue and put out a 58 page report. One of the options suggested to the Govt. was to implement a national MBL on sport (page 52). TabCorp needs to contact the federal govt and ask them to bring in a national sports MBL. Here is the link to the report. https://www.dss.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/11_2017/final_report_-_betting_restrictions_report.pdf


    I think TabCorp is a decent, progressive Aussie company that is having a bad run, and that bad run is their own fault. They should own it, refocus and try to once again become the dominant market player (Sportsbet has gone well past them now in market share). 

    I think the Fair Play Coalition is reckless in its messaging and will continue to erode value for punters if some facts aren’t installed quickly. 

    I have not been guided or assisted by anyone in my findings. All my statements have come from publicly available reports distributed by the companies I have discussed.

    We have the best racing industry in the world and that’s because it’s so well funded and run, and TabCorp has been a huge part of the industry’s success over the last few decades. I’m all in on funding the industry as well and efficiently as possible, but TabCorp are doing punters a disservice with this current campaign.