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Online Bookmakers Must Stop Using Sign-Up Bonuses

Mon, Sep 25, 8:33am by Staff Writer

As part of the federal government’s continued crackdown on the online gambling industry, Human Services Minister Alan Tudge has brokered a compromise which will see several major bookmakers cease their use of so-called “sign-up inducements.”

On September 8, Tudge chaired a meeting of Commonwealth, state, and territorial gambling ministers in Melbourne, where a series of nine iGaming reforms were set forth. The measures were agreed upon in principle by the attending ministers, and in a statement issued by his office, Tudge revealed that the reforms would be “implemented throughout 2018.”

Online bookmakers Sportsbet, CrownBet, Bet365, Ladbrokes, and William Hill also collaborated in crafting the new rules.

Of the nine regulatory enhancements, Tudge positioned “limits on inducements” and “ease of account closure” as the meeting’s prime objective.

Within the world of online sportsbook operation, inducements like free bets, account credits, and deposit match bonuses have long been used to attract new players. But over the last few years, the betting community has become increasingly critical of these inducements, claiming that major bookmakers use fine print and red tape to prevent players from withdrawing funds related to such inducements.

Indeed, the practice of using “playthrough” or “rollover” requirements has allowed many online bookmakers to promise players funds that they can never really remove from the site. Under a playthrough scheme, bonus funds can only be withdrawn after a certain level of wagering activity – usually between 10x to 40x the bonus amount combined with the initial deposit – has been reached.

Under the proposed reforms, bonus offers can no longer be used to induce sign-ups, and bonuses awarded to regular players cannot be contingent on any playthrough requirements.

Among the other reforms put forth were the formation of a National Self-Exclusion Register made available to problem gamblers, a voluntary pre-commitment system wherein players can set daily or weekly loss limits, and access to account statements on demand.

Tudge explained the need for updated iGaming regulations in a public statement:

“Many Australians enjoy a punt, but we want to ensure there are reasonable protections in place and that individuals can have greater control over their gambling expenditure.

Online gambling is growing faster than any other form of gambling and the incidences of problem gambling is higher. The gambling problems of the future will all come from the online space if we don’t put sensible protections in place now.”

Tudge also outlined the logistics behind the more significant reforms:

“Today, we agreed sensible limits on inducements so that people aren’t encouraged to spend more money when they may already be in trouble.

A National Self Exclusion Register means punters can go onto one of their gambling apps and self-exclude from all gambling providers with one simple process.

Along with the limits on advertising and the crackdown on the illegal offshore providers, these new changes will make a substantial difference to limiting the harm from excessive gambling.”

Industry lobby group Responsible Wagering Australia – which represents Sportsbet, CrownBet, Bet365, Ladbrokes, and William Hill – issued a statement applauding Tudge and his fellow ministers for taking a common-sense approach:

“We welcome, in particular, the decision by Ministers to adopt RWA’s proposal to ban sign-up promotions.

This will ensure that Australians are able to choose a preferred wagering operator free from any financial incentive.

RWA also welcomes the simplification of turnover requirements for bonus bets, with Ministers agreeing that the winnings from a bonus bet must be able to be withdrawn and cannot be subject to further turnover requirements.

This will significantly simplify these types of promotions, ensuring consumers can more easily access the winnings that result from such promotions.”

Stephen Conroy, who serves as executive director for the RWA, went on record to lend his organization’s full support to the government’s iGaming initiatives:

“The reforms agreed to today are in addition to a range of other measures RWA has been advocating for and represent significant reform.

The positive outcome achieved today demonstrates the important progress that can be made when Federal, State and Territory governments work together.

We look forward to working with Minister Tudge to further refine these measures and to develop effective implementation arrangements for the National Consumer Protection Framework.”

The ministerial meeting continues the federal government’s efforts to improve the iGaming industry, following the Review of Illegal Offshore Wagering led by Barry O’Farrell in 2015.

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