Betfair, the British betting exchange, cleared a major hurdle this week in its efforts to establish a business in Australia.
". . . There will be ripple effects, but there won't be ripple effects in the sense of retaliation or retribution."
- David Harding
Australian Racing Board
Australian Racing Board CEO Andrew Harding said that while he is still opposed to Betfair operating in the country, the board will not exclude Tasmania from interstate betting pools if Betfair is given a license.
Many racing officials had suggested that threatening to cut Tasmania out would pressure the state's regulators to deny Betfair's bid for a license, but that strategy was rejected by Harding on Thursday during a meeting between Australian racing officials and Tasmanian regulators.
"The question is, will there be changes to the way the industry operates in Australia if a betting exchange is licensed?" Harding said "The answer to that must be 'yes, there will be changes; there will be ripple effects, but there won't be ripple effects in the sense of retaliation or retribution.'"
Harding said the purpose of Thursday's meetings was not to seek commitments but to put relevant information on the table.
"When betting exchanges first emerged, we approached the subject with an open mind and conducted our own extensive inquiries into what was involved and the consequences for the racing industry," he said. "Our position on the issue is now well known. We weren't seeking any indication from the politicians we met as to where they stood. Our only request was to be given the opportunity to present the results of our inquiries. We were gratified by the willingness of everybody to give us a hearing. Everybody understood that this is a serious matter."
"A decision by the Tasmanian government to go ahead would be a massive act of betrayal of the racing industry."
- Wayne Milner
Even with the threat of withholding Tasmania from the interstate betting pools removed, Harding said he will still try to convince Tasmanian Premier Paul Lennon that Betfair shouldn't be given a license.
"We understand that the premier has done enormous things for the Tasmanian racing industry," Harding said, "but on this matter, it can't be a bad thing to put everything on the table.
Harding and the ARB aren't alone in their active lobbying against Betfair. Officials with Racing Victoria joined Harding in Tasmania, while the Australian Thoroughbred Racehorse Owners Council and the Queensland Racehorse Owners Association sent letters to Tasmanian officials urging them not to grant Betfair a license.
The president of the Queensland Racehorse Owners Association, Wayne Milner, warned that a decision by the Tasmanian government to award a license to Betfair could have serious repercussions on the amount of prize money offered throughout the rest of Australia.
"The fact is that betting exchanges can't match the returns TABs provide to the industry throughout the land," Milner, "so if Tasmania goes at it alone with this, then they do so in the knowledge there is a real danger they may be cutting a large hole in the revenue available for national prize money."
Milner argued that nearly 750 race meetings in Queensland could be impacted negatively--or even eliminated--if Betfair receives a license in Australia.
"Betfair has been strongly opposed by the Queensland government and most other states," he said. "A decision by the Tasmanian government to go ahead would be a massive act of betrayal of the racing industry."
Officials with Betfair said they are taking all developments in stride and will continue to work with Australian regulators and the racing industry in hopes of becoming the first betting exchange to get a license.
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