Betfair in Talks with NSW Government over Race Fields Publication

30 October 2007

Online betting exchange Betfair may finally be able to publish race fields from New South Wales (NSW), once it clears the final hurdle of government.

The London-based company confirmed on Monday that it was in talks with the NSW government to allow it to advertise fields and sponsor races in the state.

Betfair in January 2006 earned a license to operate in Tasmania and in July of the same year was granted permission by the Victorian government to publish Victorian race fields, which effectively enabled Betfair to match wagers on racing in the state.

In NSW however, state regulations exist preventing Betfair from advertising, though they have taken bets from the state as long as they have been in operation in Australia, said Betfair Communications Director Mark Davies.

But the NSW government is now reportedly looking at possibly amending the regulations enabling Betfair to expand into the region.

NSW Premier Morris Iemma confirmed to local press that he has had talks with James Packer, whose Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd. owns a fifty percent stake in Betfair's Australian operation, about the issue. Iemma reportedly in response promised to examine the issue fairly.

Besides the regulations, Betfair has been met with a great deal of resistance from interested parties in NSW.

Racing NSW Chief Executive Peter V'Landys expressed disappointment in the government's intervention and questioned why it was getting involved, arguing Racing NSW should be the approving authority in this case.

"The government has no knowledge of racing and it's going to undersell our product," he said.

He also said Racing NSW was not consulted on the matter.

"If Betfair cannibalize the totalizator revenue we could lose tens of millions in revenue," he said. "Other forms of wagering can't compete against Betfair."

A great deal of controversy has surrounded Betfair's bid to expand into and throughout Australia. Davies downplayed the latest as media hype.

"It's a media frenzy about something that that we do already, Davies told IGN. "We already have NSW punters. We're just looking for permission to use and pay for race fields like we do in Victoria."

He said it was the same old story from the same people who were opposed to Betfair becoming licensed in Tasmania.

"Vested interests want to block progress and consumer choice for reasons of their own, so they characterize a product which brings better safeguards and better options as something totally different, and create an element of hysteria completely at odds with the real position," Davies said. "Nothing that has been said in the last 48 hours by opponents takes into account any of the proven realities of the product and its impact.

"The fact that TOTE Tasmania reported record profits last week and the Tasmanian industry is thriving appears not to be on anyone's agenda," he added.

TOTE Tasmania on Oct. 24 released its full year results for 2006, revealing record numbers, owed in part to the contributions of Betfair.

"In addition to the A$20.4 million distributed to the racing industry, a further A$5.6 million was injected into the industry through the State Governments license arrangements with Betfair--this total distribution reinforces the economic importance of racing to Tasmania," TOTE Tasmania said in a prepared statement.

Moreover, the Tasmanian Thoroughbred Racing Council expressed concern over Betfair being awarded a Tasmanian license in January 2006. But council chairman Rod Thirkell-Johnston told the Sydney Morning Herald on Monday that Betfair in Tasmania has increased prize money and introduced a new type of punter to horse racing.

"I was very concerned about the integrity side of it, and I have to say my first opinion about Betfair was probably wrong," Thirkell-Johnston said.

If approved, Betfair would be required to pay a product fee to Racing NSW, similar to the one it pays Racing Victoria Limited.