Sports betting has been a popular—and legal—activity throughout Australia for many years. Last July, however, a probe into the legitimacy of live, in-play betting caused several major online operators to consider suspending some of their wagering services, including Ladbrokes “Quickcall” feature. Now, thanks to one of the company’s biggest Australian rivals, William Hill, Ladbrokes has reinstated the in-play wagering app.
Back in July, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) informed Bet365, Ladbrokes and William Hill that the in-play betting options on their online sportsbooks were in direct violation of the Australian Interactive Gambling Act of 2001. Under that law, in-play wagers may only be submitted in person at a retailer, or over the phone.
Earlier in the year, all three internet sportsbooks introduced live betting apps for smartphones that utilized voice recognition technology, eliminating the need to speak one-on-one with a live person to place such a bet.
The ACMA repudiated the services, including Ladbroke’s Quickcall app, claiming that they were illegal because they did not “appear to involve the service provider dealing with customers using a standard telephone service.”
Ladbrokes acquiesced to the claim of the ACMA, immediately removing its in-play betting features from the website, while Bet365 and William Hill continued offering the service. William Hill took the initiative to contest the ruling; soon joined by its rival operators in the fight.
Online Sportsbooks Succeed in Fighting ACMA
The three online sportsbooks contended that the text within the Internet Gambling Act was outdated, and that there was a clear distinction between online betting and wagers made via telecommunication services that needed to be addressed by the Act.
The Australian Federal Police finally responded late last year by confirming that it would not launch an investigation into the ACMA’s dispute, agreeing that the antiquated text of existing law was too easy for online sportsbooks to circumvent without threat of genuine castigation.
“The ban on ‘live’ or ‘in the run’ betting is technologically illiterate and easy to avoid,” read a statement from IPA researchers. “Techniques that firms have used to arbitrage around the legislative framework demonstrate the weakness of legislative controls.”
In-Play Betting Returns to Ladbrokes
Following the official review, Ladbrokes moved to reinstate its in-play betting feature, now known as Ladbrokes ‘LivePlay’, in mid-December. The new version is accessible via smartphones, tablets and even desktop computers, provided a microphone is enabled. According to the website, LivePlay allows users to “bet live on sports in just 3 clicks!”
The punter must first log into their Ladbrokes account and make their way to the live sporting event they wish to bet on. They can then click on the odds they want to take and follow the ensuing prompts. With that done, the punter must click the Bet Live button, at which time a phone call is placed from the operator to the user.
A synthetic voice iterates the user’s selected wagers. If correct, the bettor can simply press the Confirm Bet button to finalize the bet. An option to cancel the bet is also provided at that point.
Opposition to In-Play Betting from Rival Tatts
The only real opposition to the continuance of live betting at online sportsbooks regulated in Australia came from their strongest, land-based rival, Tatts Group. CEO Robbie Cooke said it’s pointless to push for legalised in-play betting because there’s no real public support for it by Australian gamblers.