Face: British Invasion Down Under Will Have 'Dire Consequences'

1 March 2002

New South Wales is proving the adage that attacks from outsiders are the best thing to get bickering neighbors to agree on things.

The state's often splintered racing industry is coming together in what is being described as an "unprecedented show of unity" with the purpose of showing U.K. betting giant Sportingbet.com that they won't be pushed around.

The Thursday edition of the Daily Telegraph reported on the sudden unity between racing interests after Gaming and Racing Minister Richard Face called for a meeting of solidarity on Monday.

Face is circling the wagons and getting horseracing operators in New South Wales to stave off what he thinks will be a decline in revenue with the introduction of betting shops in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. Sportingbet recently announced it was relocating its South Pacific operations from Vanuatu to the Northern Territory, a move that's seen as a serious threat to existing racing and sports gambling operators in Australia. Face is hoping to form a plan of action to counteract the introduction of service Down Under.

The call for the solidarity meeting came after Face met with officials from TAB Limited; all parties feel a crisis is impending.

Face is worried that with Sportingbet relocating to Darwin, racing industry interests could be squeezed out of business sooner rather than later. To counteract the move, the Telegraph reported, Face is considering measures to protect wagering revenue from leaving New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

Initiatives include:

  • ceasing a feed of bookmaker fluctuations to ACT and NT race courses;
  • restoring a ban on the use of mobile phones on course;
  • expelling the NT and ACT thoroughbred principal clubs from the Australian Racing Board;
  • charging ACT and NT wagering operators for the right to field on NSW racing;
  • prohibiting the licensing of NSW bookmakers involved with interstate corporate bookmaker enterprises.

    Face isn't alone in his desire to see aggressive action taken to counter the Sportingbet move. He's reportedly convinced TAB Limited-owned Sky Channel to do its part as well.

    The Telegraph reported that the TAB Limited is contemplating drastic action, possibly even as drastic as terminating the transmission of Sky Channel racing pictures to ACT and NT race courses and other outlets and ending Sky coverage of all ACT and NT racing events.

    The measures could be seen as necessary by Face, who said most of the wagering business from betting shops in the Northern and Australian Capital territories comes from New South Wales. He said the move by the local governments to woo Sportingbet to their jurisdiction was underhanded and warrants retaliation.

    "This recent action on the part of the ACT and NT Governments continues their blatant attempts to transfer wagering revenues from the major states to corporate bookmakers in their jurisdictions," Face said.

    He said the takeover of Vanuatu's No. 1 Betting Shop by Sportingbet and its relocation to Darwin circumvents NSW legislation prohibiting offshore betting on Australian racing and facilitates the marketing of the business to punters throughout Australia.

    But that isn't even is biggest concern.

    "Above all, it also heralds the arrival in Australia of the large international bookmaker firms," he said. "As such, will we now see numerous others--including the likes of Ladbrokes and William Hill--beating a path to the NT and ACT?"

    The proliferation of such facilities, he feels, will have "dire consequences on the whole of the Australian racing industry."

    He also acknowledged that the Northern and Australian Capital territories will see very limited upside from the new betting shops. "Laughably," he said, "the only benefit to these two territories will be 100 or so jobs."