ACMA fines Ladbrokes and Neds Sportsbooks for accepting illegal in-play bets
As part of regular business procedures at the Australian Communications and Media Authority, also known as the ACMA, the agency fined Entain Ply Limited for offering online in-game sports betting illegal.
The offenses in question took place during a LIV Golf tournament in October 2022. Entain, which operates the popular Australian gambling sites Ladbrokes and Nedsaccepted 78 online bets during play on the final day of the Bangkok LIV Golf event on October 9, 2022.
ACMA has been busy lately
The ACMA has recently been on a rampage when it comes to enforcing gambling laws. The agency just blocked four sites, including Firefox Casino, and issued a warning to a sports streaming service earlier this month. The ACMA also fined BetDeluxe $50,172 for breaching spam advertising rules in February.
This kind of effort is nothing new for the ACMA, as the agency has blocked hundreds of suspected illegal gambling websites by ordering Australian ISPs to block access to citizens. Blocking sites in this way is the main tactic used by the ACMA, but the success of these efforts is questionable at best.
Already in December 2022, the ACMA blocked the gambling sites Pokizino and ABA Lucky 33. Just two months later, the agency blocked six more gambling sites. In addition to blocking gambling sites, the ACMA has also targeted marketing affiliates, such as when the agency blocked NoDepositKings.com and a handful of additional gambling websites. The ACMA recently teamed up with the Northern Territory to enforce gambling law.
What is Entain Ply Ltd?
Entain Ply Limited, also known as Entain Group, is a large business dedicated to designing and providing gambling solutions. Entain operates many popular brands worldwide including Ladbrokes, Neds and Coral.
This isn’t the first time Entain has run into trouble with a governing body. In 2022, the UKGC fined Entain Group a massive $17 million for failing to comply with anti-money laundering guidelines.
What did Entain do wrong?
In this particular case, it’s initially a bit unclear what Entain actually did wrong. The ACMA fined the brand for offering bets on a LIV Golf event after the final day of the tournament had already started.
It appears that offering bets that are not marked with an “in-play” or “live betting” distinction may be at the root of the problem. On the final day of the tournament in question, Ladbrokes accepted 59 bets and Neds accepted a further 19 bets after the start of play.
One odd aspect of this case is that ACMA chairperson Nerida O’ Loughlin commented on the $13,320 breach notice. Ms O’ Loughlin argued that online in-game betting laws were in place to protect the vulnerable people and she had this to say about it:
Online in-play betting increases the risk for those people who experience gambling harm as it provides quick results and allows for a higher frequency of bets
Entain is a very experienced betting operator and it is disappointing that they do not have internal procedures in place to prevent or detect the error
The ACMA made it clear to the industry last year that they must have robust systems in place to ensure that online in-game bets are not provided or accepted.
The chairman claimed the ACMA wanted to “ensure that online in-play betting is not provided or accepted”, but almost every major sports book in Australia offers live in-play betting. If we look at the Neds Australia sports betting site mentioned in this penalty, we can see a sizeable live betting section.
Obviously, online in-game betting is accepted throughout Australia. The explanation is that it is illegal for bookmakers to accept these types of bets through their online interfaces. However, they are permitted to display in-game betting odds on their websites and accept telephone action.
The problem in this case boils down to the fact that Ladbrokes and Neds accepted bets online for an event with an incorrect start time, which resulted in the bets becoming unauthorized live bets.
Further details of the punishment
The ACMA alleges that Entain reported that the parent company had entered the wrong start time for the LIV Golf event in question. The incorrect start time resulted in 78 bets being placed. All bets were off.
To try to understand this punishment a little better, we tried to look at the document itself and the details. Unfortunately, the documentation is worded in such a way that it doesn’t provide much clarity.
It is clear that Entain violated at least one rule related to the Interactive Gambling Act by offering these bets at the wrong start time, effectively turning the bets into in-play bets. Although the above excerpt mentions a total of more than $8 million, the document explains that the maximum penalty in this case is much less.
The infringement notice states that the penalty should be calculated as one-fifth of the maximum penalty the court can impose, or 60 penalty units for a body corporate such as Entain. The amount of each penalty unit at the time was only $222, resulting in a total fine of $13,320.
Online gambling and poker still exist in Australia
Despite the ACMA and its strict enforcement of the gambling rules in force, there are still offshore organizations offering safe online poker and gambling to Australians. If you live in Australia and are looking for a reputable offshore poker operator, please do not hesitate to consult this detailed guide to online poker Australia.
If poker isn’t your game and you’d rather explore other types of gambling such as slots or table games, you can consult our extensive guide to Australian internet casinos.
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