BetFair Blamed for Exposing Gambling to Children

Written by:
Jagajeet Chiba
Published on:

Angry Aussies have expressed disgust over BetFair, the world's largest online betting exchange, claiming that the firm's cricket ads were exposing children to Internet gambling.

World Vision head Tim Costello and South Australian senator Nick Xenophon said yesterday they were shocked to see Betfair's strong presence on advertising billboards at the Melbourne Cricket Ground during the Boxing Day test.

Mr Costello, who was at the MCG yesterday, said he was "very worried" about the potential for children who viewed the Betfair advertising to go home and gamble online without their parents' knowledge.

"You've got families and kids here," Mr Costello said. "Of course gambling is part of life, but I think when it's a family cultural event like the Boxing Day Test, the advertising is inappropriate."

Costello also expressed concern over how the odds were quoted across the nation on live television.

"The truth is we know that gambling addiction breaks up families, causes crime and comes at a huge social cost," Mr Costello said. "When it's a family event like the cricket, when it's being broadcast live and kids are listening to it, it is overstepping the mark. It's inappropriate certainly for kids at a family event."

Australia has come under fire in recent months for its attempt to filter out potentially "dangerous" websites such as pornography.  Many critics believed that the unsuccessful campaign would ultimately lead to further filtering of websites unrelated to porn such as online gambling.

Senator Xenophon was elected as a South Australian senator having largely campaigned on an anti-gambling platform.  He had previously been quoted as saying the online gambling world was akin to the "wild west" and called on the Rudd Government to impose regulations on the broadcasters.  He also expressed disgust over the BetFair ads.

"Online gambling such as Betfair has the potential to deliver the next wave of problem gamblers," he said.

"There's very little regulation in relation to advertising. Gambling advertising ought to carry with it warnings, and we ought to be looking at restrictions similar to those that apply to cigarettes and alcohol."

In November 2005 the Tasmanian government announced a deal to licence Betfair in the state. It was the second licence awarded to Betfair outside the UK - the first being in Malta with subsequent licences following in Austria and Germany - and Tasmania now receives substantial tax revenues. However it infuriated the established monopolistic totalisators and bookmakers (due to loss of revenue) and governments (due to loss of taxes) in the other Australian states. A ban on the use of betting exchanges took effect in Western Australia on the 29 January 2007 but Betfair successfully claimed this new law violated the Constitution of Australia.   In a unanimous verdict by the High Court of Australia on 27 March 2008, decision, the two provisions of the legislation, purporting to ban Western Australians from using a betting exchange and prohibiting an unauthorised business from using Western Australian race lists, were declared invalid as they applied to Betfair. The provisions were characterised as imposing a burden on interstate trade that was protectionist in nature, and therefore contravened section 92 of the constitution.   The Court decision suggests, but leaves open, that a more narrowly drafted ban may have been allowed (eg, banning people in Western Australia from laying 'lose bets' on events held in Western Australia).

Jagajeet Chiba, 

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