peaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Cooke said there was little evidence that Australian gamblers are interested in in-play betting despite claims by international groups operating in Australia that failing to legalize in-play will push online punters into the arms of unlicensed offshore operators.
“There are no members of the community here agitating to get rid of the IGA [Interactive Gaming Act],” said Cooke. “This is completely the creation of Northern Territory-based, UK or Irish wagering companies agitating the Australian government to remove the IGA for their own profit-driven motives.”
Cooke also questioned a statistic from the currently ongoing O’Farrell review of the IGA that over a billion Australian dollars is wagered on over 2,200 illegal offshore sites by Aussies every year, observing:
“Nobody has shown me any data which actually validates that number.”
The Sydney Morning Herald notes that Paddy Power subsidiary Sportsbet told the review that if the government retains the status quo, more than A$2.2 billion will be lost offshore in lost wagering profits by 2020, representing $100 million a year in forgone tax revenue.
Cooke says he believes that with A$30 billion gambled in Australia annually and Northern Territory bookmakers accounting for nearly A$9 billion of bets placed, nearly all of the spend was already being counted.
“The suggestion there is all this money flowing offshore I think is a false premise,” Cooke opined. “I think it’s the big lie.”
The Tatts chief acknowledges that his company may benefit, but doubts that there is sufficient community support to justify changes to the current laws.
“As a gambling operator one side of me says fantastic that’s a great opportunity for growth, but do we need the community to start pushing back more on the gambling activity because if the IGA is removed you will see an increase in betting and advertising and the racing industry will be damaged.”
The O’Farrell review is due to submit its report and recommendations to the federal government Social Services Minister Christian Porter on December 18.