International gambling invasion continues with Betfred launch

British bookmaker Betfred is preparing to make a splash in the Australian online gambling market, with plans to launch a local mobile betting service in time for the 2014 Football World Cup in mid-June.

In a market that has been recently characterised by offshore operators acquiring local businesses, Betfred’s Australian managing director Luke Brill told SmartCompany  Betfred will focus on sports that are underserved by the current players in the market—those outside the mainstays of AFL and NRL.

The bookmaker will focus on sports betting in its initial phase, adding a horse racing service in time for the Spring Racing Carnival in October and November.

Brill also hopes the company’s strategy of launching with a mobile-only service will set it apart from its competitors.

“We want to be known as a mobile bookmaker,” says Brill, who previously headed up marketing and gaming for Sportingbet-owned Centrebet.  Betfred will launch a full-service web offering in Australia down the track, which Brill says will allow the bookmaker to incorporate feedback from mobile users.

The deadline for Betfred’s Australian launch is June 12—the start of the World Cup—but Brill hopes to launch beforehand. “The quicker the better,” he says.

Betfred currently employs 15 staff in Australia, with another five due to arrive from the UK in coming weeks. The Australian Financial Review reports the company has established offices in Sydney and Darwin, where it has obtained a Northern Territory gambling licence.

Brill says there are a number of factors that make Australia attractive to international bookmakers, including its English-speaking population and the well regulated gambling market. “The propensity to gamble is high in Australia … [and] high numbers of Australians bet on European sports,” says Brill. The possibility of live-betting getting the go ahead is also a sign of potential future growth in the market, says Brill.

However, Alan Eskander, co-founder of local bookmaker Betstar, told SmartCompany that he believes the Australian gambling market will not be able to support the increasing number of players, with it unsustainable to have “five or six large players going after the same dollar in the long term”. “There will be jostling for positions over the next two-to-four years, after which time we will see further consolidation or attrition,” he said. 

Eskander recently sold Betstar to Ladbrokes in a deal reported to be worth $20-$25 million. Eskander told SmartCompany  at the time that it is becoming increasingly difficult for small-to-medium sized bookmakers to compete with the larger gambling companies operating in the Australian market, many of which are offshore bookmakers which are coming into Australian and “investing enormous amounts of money”.

He said the decision to sell the business was motivated by changing market conditions, with the local gambling market changing beyond recognition over the past couple of years.

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