Ladbrokes is using the Northern Territory’s period of leniency to offer incentives to online punters. Ladbrokes teamed with local operator Neds for a AU$250 bonus offer to new depositors.
The deal is nothing new in the NT regulated gaming market. Like most countries around the world, online gaming sites offer both deposit bonuses and no-deposit bonuses to potential customers. Some free promotions give money for registration (no-deposit), while others give players house money for their initial deposits.
What is new is the upcoming restrictions on gambling operators. Four Australian states — Victoria, New South Wales (NSW), Western Australia, and South Australia — long have had restrictions on bonus promotions.
The four recently rolled out total bans on bonus offers, though. The Northern Territory, which licenses many of the international gaming sites in Australia, allowed a grace period for the gaming sites to comply with the ban and make necessary changes.
The Northern Territory’s Racing Commission, which oversees NT gaming sites, gave operators 1 month to comply. Most licensed online gaming operators immediately complied with the ban. Ladbrokes, on the other hand, did not.
Instead, Ladbrokes and Neds gave gamers the 100% welcome bonus, according to the Racing Commission. When criticized by the Racing Commission’s director, Ladbrokes defended the action.
Ladbrokes stated it backs the National Consumer Protection Framework passed by Aussie MPs. The UK bookmaker said it also backs Aussie consumer protections. Despite the words of support, the online sportsbook received condemnation from NT regulators and their rivals in the market.
Responsible Wagering Australia (RWA), which represents major Aussie bookmakers, said sportsbooks were expected to support every aspect of the the National Consumer Protection Framework (NCPF) and the RWA Code of Conduct.
Charles Livingstone, the public health expert and anti-gaming activist from Monash University, said the move didn’t surprise him. Prior to the current news, Livingstone predicted that gaming sites would push the boundaries of any limits imposed.
Like other anti-gaming Aussie campaigners, the Monash U public health expert claimed sportsbooks only would respond to stiff penalties. Those penalties include stiff fines, the suspension of operating licences, or even pulling of the gaming license altogether.
In the current case, Ladbrokes and Neds are operating inside the law. They have a month to comply with the new changes. During that month, it is legal for Ladbrokes to promote itself with signup bonuses and other offers.
Whether doing so is worth the public relations backlash is another matter. Ladbrokes also must consider its relationship to NT regulators. While flouting the policy likely will not cause a rift with NT officials, it might cause a certain amount of ill-will. If more serious concerns arise later, Ladbrokes might not receive the same goodwill that other sportsbooks would.
Of course, Ladbrokes execs know the Northern Territory market well. Its leaders likely calculated the risk/reward factor is worth it. In other words, the risk that non-compliance with the bonus restrictions is quite small.