Two prominent Australia-facing sports betting operators will pay a record fine in New South Wales. Ladbrokes Australia and Neds received the record fine in relation to illegal gambling advertising activities.
The Liquor & Gaming NSW fined the two sports betting giants a record $207,500. This agency monitors the state’s gambling industry.
The regulator dished out the record fine after finding the pair guilty of offering NSW residents inducements to gamble. An investigation revealed both Ladbrokes and Neds released several gambling ads that contravened local rules and regulations.
The offending adverts aired on local television and social media, offering bonus bets to new customers.
Record Fine Relates to Four Advertisements
Liquor & Gaming NSW revealed a total of six adverts broke its rules and warranted a record fine.
Two Neds adverts and four from Ladbrokes warranted attention from the Liquor & Gaming NSW. Those ads ran on Channel 7 and across Facebook and Instagram during 2018.
All sports betting companies must follow strict guidelines set out by the NSW regulations. NSW rules prohibit publishing gambling adverts that include inducements for bettors to participate or participate frequently in gambling activities.
One advert offered $250 of bonus bets if the bettor wagered $50. The New South Wales regulator argued this ad incited NSW residents to make frequent bets to release the bonus into their accounts. Ladbrokes and Neds offering the bonus bets to new customers broke the terms and conditions of their licenses.
Record Fine Issues For Increasing Gambling Harm
Dimitri Argeres, the Assistant Director of Compliance for Liquor & Gaming NSW spoke about the record fine. “inducements are known to increase the risk of gambling harm and these advertisements reached a broad segment of the population. [The record fine] should serve as a reminder that betting operators have an obligation to ensure their gambling advertising complies with NSW laws.”
Both Ladbrokes and Neds can appeal the record fine but are unlikely to do so. This is because rules they agreed to adhere to can award fines up to $100,000 per offence. Furthermore, company directors can face criminal charges.
This means GVC Holdings, owner of both Ladbrokes and Neds, could have received a $600,000 fine.
GVC Holdings investors reacted negatively to the record fine. Shares on the London Stock Exchange fell 3.44% to 836.60 pence per share, which is the lowest price for three months. Full Year Results for GVC become public knowledge on March 5th. This record fine won’t show on those financials as the period covered ended on December 31, 2019.
Kindred Group Fined For Similar Offenses
The NSW regulator issues another large fine in December 2019. Kindred Group’s Unibet Australia paid $25,000 fine in New South Wales over similar violations to Ladbrokes and Neds.
Unibet ran an advert on The Canberra Times’ website during November 2018. The ad read “Deposit $20, Bet with $100. This put Unibet on the Liquor & Gaming NSW radar. The regulator took action following a second offending advert, one that stated: “Earn $50 CASH For Each Friend You Refer!” That last ad ran on Unibet’s own Australia-facing website.
Advertisements are not allowed to encourage prolonged or frequent gambling. Nor are they meant to be designed to attract new customers. Furthermore, offshore operators are prohibited from any forms of advertising to Australian residents.
The Australian government is continually tweaking the Interactive Gambling Act. It passed in 2001, some 19-years ago, leading to some companies believing it is out of date.
The act covers several key areas related to advertising. It also has exceptions to the law, which some find puzzling. For example, Licensed operators can take bets on sporting events but only if the bet is placed prior to the start of the event in question. Pre-event betting is allowed, but the popular in-play betting is not.
Similarly, online lotteries are legal, but instant-win scratch cards are not. Anyone bending or breaking the rules faces a record fine similar to the ones levied at Ladbrokes and Neds.