Tabcorp drives more customers online

by Noah Taylor Last Updated
ACCC keeps an eye on Tabcorp sales interest

Wagering giant Tabcorp has says that its punters are embracing its efforts to get more customers betting online.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that a third of Tabcorp’s active customers in Victoria and New South Wales placed an online bet in a venue since October.

The shift to digital betting, led by others in the industry such as Sportsbet and Ladbrokes, over the past 15 years presented a challenge to Tabcorp’s retail network of 4,000 betting agencies and entertainment venues.

The $9 billion group’s managing director of wagering Adam Rytenskild said many punters went to its pubs and clubs to watch live sport and racing, but placed bets on their phones, not the TAB betting terminals.

This meant the venue would not get its cut of the gambling turnover.

“That’s not good for the publicans, that’s not good for the clubs and it’s not good for TAB,” he said.

“There were some extreme situations of marching customers out of the venue if they weren’t betting cash with them.”

Online wagering boosted; Venue Mode launched

TAB’s online wagering turnover grew by 7.4 per cent last year, while its retail turnover fell 7.7 per cent.

Its wagering revenue is roughly split 50/50 between the two channels now.

Overall, wagering revenue fell 3.6 per cent last year, with Tabcorp’s bottom line propped up by the lotteries business it acquired through a 2017 merger with Tatts.

Tabcorp started rolling out systems in late 2016 that used geolocation technology to identify when a customer placed a bet on the TAB’s smartphone app within a venue, so the revenue could be shared.

Mr Rytenskild said that did not stop up to 60 per cent of the online bets in venues being placed with rival bookmakers.

Tabcorp is now trying to combat that by rolling out “venue mode” on its app, which gives customers special offers or deals only accessible in TAB venues.

The feature was designed to encourage punters to both choose TAB over its competitors and also drive patronage at TAB venues.

Mr Rytenskild said the early signs were positive, with the number of customers re-activating their accounts and placing a bet in venues after not doing so for six months jumping by 60 per cent.

The number of new digital customers placing bets in venues grew 20 per cent.

About 160,000 customers have used venue mode in Victoria and New South Wales since its launch, which is about a third of its active customers in those states.

“What has changed now is we’ve got venues saying: go for your life, you choose how you want to bet, as long as you’re betting with TAB,” Mr Rytenskild said.

“That’s the big change.”

Tabcorp recently signed broadcasting deals with the National Basketball Association and national Football League, in the hope showing their games will drive patronage in TAB venues.

Tension rising in Tabcorp boardroom

Gambling giant Tabcorp has injected more new blood into its boardroom, amid investor discontent over some existing directors’ length of tenure and below-market returns.

WA Today reported in December that the $9.5 billion company said professional director Anne Brennan would join its board as a non-executive director, which follows the October appointment of outgoing Football Federation Australia boss David Gallop.

Tabcorp operate lotteries and the TAB wagering outfit and has been bit with protest votes at its last two annual general meetings.

At its October meeting this year, 34.6 per cent of votes went against the re-election of chairwoman Paula Dwyer, who has been on the board since 2005, with proxy adviser Institutional Shareholder Services recommending against her re-election because of her long tenure.

Ms Dwyer said she will step down as chairwoman no later than the Tabcorp annual general meeting in 2021.

The bookie received a first “strike” – or a vote of 25 per cent or more against its executive pay packets – in 2018, but avoided a second at this year’s annual general meeting.

In additional to her role on the board of Tabcorp, Ms Brennan currently sits on the board of agricultural chemical marker Nufarm limited and property group Charter Hall, and has previously been a director at casino operator Echo Entertainment, now Star Entertainment, and struggling retailers Metcash and Myer.

Ms Dwyer said in a statement that Ms Brennan has broad industry experience, including in gambling and would bring “strong commercial judgment and extensive professional experience in audit, corporate finance and transaction services” to the board.

Tabcorp’s total shareholder returns have underperformed the ASX200 by 8.5 per cent during the past year and 23 per cent in the past two years, but the group has promised up to $145 million in benefits from its 2017 merger with Tatts Group, by 2021.

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