ACMA Warns Tabcorp over Illegal In-Play Wagers in Australia

ACMA, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, is not relenting to clean up the sports betting and gambling space in the country. After targeting offshore lottery websites for the first time earlier this week, ACMA has now issued a formal warning to respected Aussie sports betting company Tabcorp which the regulator claims accepted 37 illegal online in-play bets on a college sports game that took place in the United States.

Tabcorp Chooses to Pay Out Winning Bets, Refunds Losing Ones

Based on the country’s active regulatory framework, that is, the Gambling Act 2001, operators are not allowed to accept in-play bets on sporting events regardless of where they take place. Tabcorp has responded by explaining the situation as a genuine mistake rather than intentional malfeasance.

The company said that the bets were placed on January 3, 2021, and were the result of internal processes failing to close the selections on time due to incorrect information provided by a third party, which is usually keeping track of when games start. Tabcorp did realize the error but chose to pay out winning bets while refunding losing ones, showing a consumer-focused approach.

This is the first time ACMA has targeted an operator over failure to comply with in-play rules, watchdog representative Fiona Cameron said. She didn’t offer the same apologetic tone Tabcorp did, though, and added:

“These rules have been in place for many years, and Tabcorp has had more than enough time to put systems in place to ensure that in-play betting is not offered on local or international sports.”

ACMA representative Fiona Cameron

Acting in Consumer’s Best Interests, But No More Free Passes

However, the regulator realized that Tabcorp had acted genuinely in the best interest of consumers upon discovery of the issue. The regulator described the wagers as “illegal” in its surmise of the situation but said that Tabcorp would only be issued a warning on this instance. Repeat offenses, though, could lead to other enforcement options, including a penalty or injunction, ACMA cautioned.

ACMA disagreed with Tabcorp’s decision to pay out winning wagers, though, citing that as another issue, and said:

“The ACMA considered that the paying out of winning bets by Tabcorp was inappropriate and that all illegal bets should have been voided so that neither operators nor punters benefit from the prohibited activity.”

ACMA representative Fiona Cameron

Cameron urged the industry to be on “high alert” and make sure that it has the right mechanisms in place to ensure that such infringements of the Gambling Act do not happen again. ACMA is prepared to investigate all and any instances of non-compliance, Cameron concluded.

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