Politics

Australian newsagents celebrate as government acts to outlaw “dodgy” lottery betting sites

Emma Koehn /

Australian newsagents say they have secured a massive win against global betting platforms this week, with the federal Minister for Communications set to introduce legislation into Parliament today to outlaw betting on the results of lotto and keno draws.

The Australian Lottery and Newsagents Association (ALNA) has long campaigned against loopholes in the nation’s gambling rules that have allowed overseas providers, including Gibraltar-based company Lottoland, to take bets from Australian punters on the results of lotteries from around the world.

The association, which represents more than 4000 newsagency businesses across the country, argues the “dodgy structures” of these types of platforms have caused huge damage to local businesses by diverting money to overseas providers, when that money could have otherwise been spent on regulated Australian lotteries.

ALNA head of policy and government relations Ben Kearney tells SmartCompany that while local newsagents are “performing well” across the country, the fact that overseas betting agencies could offer these products has been deeply unfair to local businesses, who are strictly regulated in their selling of lotto products.

“These small businesses are tightly bound to regulation through state lottery acts, state lottery licences, and through their franchise agreements. As such, they have no levers to pull to respond to an online betting contingency that freely seeks to mimic state pool lotteries, yet doesn’t operate on a level playing field,” Kearney says.

The federal government said yesterday it had “listened carefully to a range of groups” about the issue and reached the conclusion that regulated lotteries form an important income stream for small businesses, whereas platforms that allow wagering on “synthetic lotteries” don’t produce benefits to Australia or contribute to its tax base.

As a result, Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield will today introduce an amendment to the Interactive Gambling Act, which will outlaw wagering on the outcomes of all lotto and keno games.

Businesses that currently offer these services within Australia will have a six-month transition period after the passing of the legislation to stop offering these wagering opportunities to Australian punters.

“The Turnbull Government is committed to ensuring that gambling takes place under a robust legislative framework with strong consumer protections and within the boundaries of community standards,” the Prime Minister’s office said in a statement yesterday.

Karney says local newsagents have long had customers approaching them to ask for tickets in “Lottoland” and other draws, which shows customers themselves don’t understand that these products are not actual regulated lotteries, but rather wagering on the outcomes of draws.

While ALNA says it will be difficult to put an overall dollar value on the benefits of the legislation, Kearney says both small businesses and the community will benefit because outlawing this kind of betting will stop overseas businesses from diverting revenue offshore.

“If you consider that 25c in every dollar of every official lottery ticket sold across Australia is paid in state lottery taxes, and that amounts to well over a $1 billion dollars annually to the community, you can see the impact it will have to not have synthetic lotteries cannibalising regulated lottery draws,” he says.

However, the chief executive of Lottoland, Luke Brill, told Fairfax on Tuesday the laws would not make a difference to small businesses because the platform had already removed wagering on Australian lotteries from its site, so it shouldn’t have an impact on the sale of local lottery tickets.

SmartCompany contacted Lottoland for further comment but did not receive a response prior to publication.

A number of countries across the globe offer different versions of lottery wagering, but in Australia, the local newsagency community believes the government will be able to enforce a ban on this type of gambling.

“The Interactive Gambling Act already makes it illegal to sell a scratchy online and play a poker machine online, [and] these consumer protections are effective. And we believe the ban on lotto betting, which is most important for consumer protection, will also be effective. We see this as good news for small business,” Kearney says.

NOW READ: Why we need independently owned newsagents and pharmacies 

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is a former senior journalist at SmartCompany.

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