A Gibraltar-based company that allows Australians to bet on overseas lottery results should “simply take their bat and ball and go home”, the anti-gambling advocate Tim Costello has said.
Lottoland, which runs synthetic lotteries allowing punters to place wagers on the outcome of overseas results, is seeking to expand its presence in Australia with a profit-sharing offer to 4,000 newsagents.
The offer, sent to operators on Thursday, would give participating newsagents a commission of 20% of the profits for every bet they refer to Lottoland.
As part of the deal, newsagents would also be asked to advertise Lottoland instore with promotional materials such as posters and flags, for betting on international lotteries.
But Costello, the spokesman for the Alliance for Gambling Reform, said the company’s business model was already a step too far in a country that had gone “way past peak gambling”.
“Australians are the world’s biggest gamblers and online is the fastest growing segment, so the last thing we need is Australia’s 4,000 newsagents promoting gambling on foreign lotteries,” he told Guardian Australia.
“Lottoland has lured in 650,000 Australian account-holders who can gamble all too easily through their mobile phones.
“Just like the way online poker companies such as Pokerstars exited the Australian market after new federal legislation last year, Lottoland should do likewise rather than further deluging Australians with more gambling messages attempting to grow the dangerous online segment.”
Lottoland Australia’s chief executive, Luke Brill, said its offer would fill a loss in revenue for newsagents as customers went online, and would not compete with Australian lotteries as it only offered bets on overseas lotteries.
“The challenging times faced by many newsagents relates in part to technology and in part to the way Tatts continues to push the digital sale of its products on their own website, taking revenue away from the newsagents,” he said.
Lottoland claims to have made six people millionaires globally since 2015, including one Australian. It has more than 650,000 registered Australian customers.
Costello said Lottoland was at the “soft end” of gambling.
“Pokies are the crack cocaine but lotto is the gateway drug,” he said. “What it represents is yet another onslaught in Australia, which has the greatest gambling problem of any nation in the world and the fastest growing segment.”
Lottoland is licensed and regulated by the Northern Territory government, reportedly known as a haven for online betting agencies with historically lax regulation and tax arrangements.
South Australia has already banned synthetic lotteries and the Northern Territory has banned betting on Australian lotteries – which Lottoland does not offer – while Victoria, NSW, Tasmania and WA are considering introducing legislation.
Proposed federal legislation, which would ban synthetic lottery products such as Lottoland, will be debated by the Senate in May, after a push from Pauline Hanson’s One Nation.
The communications minister, Mitch Fifield, has previously expressed concern about allowing betting on synthetic lottery products, which he said “undermines the longstanding community acceptance of official lottery and keno products”.
The proposed amendment would have a six-month “transition” period for affected businesses.
Costello said “the penny had dropped with most Australians” that easy access to gambling was a major issue, and he urged Labor and the crossbench to support the bill.
Source: The Guardian