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Lobbying Group RWA Calls for Ban on “Free Bet” Advertising

Fri, Dec 23, 4:28pm by Staff Writer

Just weeks after its formation, the online gambling operator lobbying group known as Responsible Wagering Australia (RWA) has based its new policy agenda on a pledge of full support for government efforts to ban “free bet” advertising.

Also known as “bonus bet” adverts to millions of online gambling fans across Australia, the technical term inducement advertising describes a common practice of enticing players to join online casinos and sportsbooks by offering free funds. These bonuses usually come in the form of a deposit match by the operator, with terms and conditions like “100 percent match bonus on first deposit” leading players to believe that a $100 deposit will produce $200 worth of playable funds.

But buried in the offer’s fine print are provisions mandating certain wagering requirements be satisfied before those funds are eligible for withdraw. In most cases, players trying to “release” their bonus funds will need to wager many multiples over their deposit amount, usually in the 30x to 50x range – all with a tight deadline in place. In effect, these wagering requirements serve to nullify the bonus funds, making them next to impossible to cash out for the average player.

Not surprisingly, free bet bonuses with stringent playthrough requirements lead many new players to “chase” their funds, making subsequent deposits and gambling with higher frequency or at higher stakes.

Customers have cried foul over these bait and switch tactics, and indeed, Tabcorp was found guilty just this month over 2015 violations related to inducement advertising of this nature. RWA member Bet365 was also charged with misleading players last year.

In immediately aligning itself with proponents of a national ban on inducement advertising, the RWA – which was formed by founding members Bet365, Betfair, Crownbet, Sportsbet and Unibet – has signaled the industry’s collective willingness to work with the newly empowered anti-gambling Xenophon Team parliamentary bloc.

Former Labor Party Senator Stephen Conroy – who now serves as executive director of the RWA after his sudden resignation from the Senate in September – spoke with The Sunday Mail to clarify the lobbying group’s overall objectives regarding inducement advertising:

“A national ban is in the long-term interests of consumers, operators and regulators, and would further strengthen harm-minimisation efforts in the sector.

A ban that applies right across Australia is the only way to ensure that an appropriate level of consumer protection is offered, regardless of where an individual lives.”

Currently, every state except Queensland has passed legislation prohibiting the use of free funds and bonus bets as a way of attracting online gamblers, but Conroy and the RWA are calling for a full national ban.

The RWA was formed after the Australian Wagering Council (AWC) disbanded in August, following that lobbying group’s decisive defeat in attempting to overturn the national ban on “in-play” or “live” betting.

U.K-based operators Ladbrokes and William Hill initiated the dissolution of the AWC, and they have declined to join the RWA alongside fellow U.K. brands Betfair and Bet 365, Malta-based Unibet, and the domestic CrownBet.

The other two major domestic operators, Tatts Group and Tabcorp, have traditionally opposed the AWC and its coalition of mostly offshore competitors. Even so, Tatts Group made headlines recently by penning a letter to Queensland Attorney General and MP Yvette D’Ath, requesting that she apply Practice 6.10 of the Queensland Responsible Gambling Code of Practice to “stamp out advertisements promoting inducement bets.”

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