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Conroy’s headache as William Hill, Ladbrokes snub RWA

Tue, Mar 28, 4:09pm by Staff Writer

Responsible Wagering Australia’s plans to implement a series of concessions aimed at smoothing the waters in the wake of the passage of the Interactive Gambling Amendment Act have been dealt a blow as both William Hill and Ladbrokes decline to sign up to the new body.

A failure to prevent the ban on online in-play sports betting led to the demise of the RWA’s predecessor, the Australian Wagering Council, leaving the industry divided in its attempts to lobby government.

RWA was set-up late last year with former Labor Senator Stephen Conroy as its chief and former Liberal Senator Richard Colbeck as chairman.

It aims to redefine the direction of the online gambling industry in the post IGAB era, where the licensed sector in Australia has increased protection against overseas operators, but also lost the right to offer live in-play betting.

The appointment of two influential former Senators from either side of politics was seen as a key tactic in repairing the image of the industry among both politicians and the wider public.

Conroy was set to unveil an array of changes to be implemented by the industry, expected to include a withdrawal from the aggressive advertising strategies which have caused concerns in the broader public as well as with those who represent them in Canberra.

RWS was to pioneer a ‘softy, softly’ self regulatory approach by all the major brands in order to ensure they maintained the ‘social licence’ to operate their businesses.

But while Sportsbet, Bet365, Betfair, Unibet and CrownBet have signed up to RWA. William Hill and Ladbrokes are yet to join, preventing RWA from announcing its new strategy.

While Conroy has mooted a reduction in marketing spend and the end to widescale credit betting, it is believed that William Hill do not support that plan, while Ladbrokes have flatly refused to sign up.

RWA have hit out at the two British companies for failing to fall in line.

“Our members are leading the industry and setting an example through their commitments to consumer protection, responsible gambling and harm minimisation measures,” an RWA spokeswoman told Fairfax Media.

“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.”

William Hill hedged its expansion strategy in Australia on live-in play betting and when that was effectively banned, it pulled out of the AWC, effectively putting an end to that body.

The sector will be further shaken up should the proposed merger between gambling supergiants Tabcorp and Tatts proceed, creating an $11 billion behemoth in the Australian market.

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