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ACMA: Unlawful Spam Costs Sportsbet $3.7 Million in Penalties and Refunds

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Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has fined Sportsbet a record infringement notice of $2.5 million and ordered the betting agency to refund $1.2 million for breaching Australia’s spam laws.

An ACMA investigation found Sportsbet sent more than 150,000 marketing text messages and emails to over 37,000 consumers who had tried to unsubscribe. Sportsbet also sent over 3000 marketing texts that had no unsubscribe function.

The marketing texts and emails from Sportsbet, sent between January 2020 and March 2021, either offered incentives to consumers to place bets or contained alerts about upcoming races.

ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said the scale and duration of Sportsbet’s conduct was deeply concerning, particularly given the potential harms involved with gambling.

“We received complaints from people stating they were experiencing gambling-related problems and were trying to manage the issue by unsubscribing from Sportsbet’s promotions,” Ms O’Loughlin said.

“Sportsbet’s failures in this matter had the real potential to contribute to financial and emotional harm to these people and their families.”

In addition to the largest penalty given by the ACMA for breaches of spam laws, the ACMA has accepted a comprehensive three-year court-enforceable undertaking from Sportsbet. The undertaking commits it to appoint an independent arbiter to oversee a compensation programme to refund customers who lost money on bets made associated with the spam, which is expected to total around $1.2 million.

The undertaking will also require Sportsbet to appoint an independent consultant to review its procedures, policies, training and systems, and implement recommendations from the audit.

Ms O’Loughlin said she was disappointed Sportsbet did not act as soon as they were aware of the problem.

“The ACMA contacted Sportsbet on several occasions leading up to the investigation to let the gambling provider know it may have compliance problems and it failed to take adequate action,” she said.

“Sportsbet is a large and sophisticated company which should have robust systems in place to comply with spam laws and protect the interests of its customers.

“We will be actively monitoring Sportsbet’s compliance and the commitments it has made to the ACMA,” Ms O’Loughlin said.

Over the past 18 months, businesses have paid nearly $3.4 million in ACMA-issued infringement notices for breaking spam and telemarketing laws. The ACMA has also accepted 13 court-enforceable undertakings and issued seven formal warnings to businesses.

Australia

VGCCC Introduces New Rules for Wagering Account Statements

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The Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) has introduced new standards for how activity statements should be presented to wagering account holders. The new standards require providers to use plain English and avoid unnecessary vocabulary. The use of colours is limited to black and red to represent losses.

The VGCCC took the measure after finding inconsistencies in the way information was displayed on sample activity statements across different providers. Account holders must be able to see how much of their own money they have lost, with free and bonus bets excluded from the net loss figures. Net wins must be shown with stakes deducted. The gambling harm taglines that appear at the end of wagering ads must be displayed on each statement.

The new standards came into force on April 1. Failure to comply could result in a penalty of 60 penalty units, equivalent to AU$11,538.60 for each non-compliant activity statement issued.

VGCCC CEO Annette Kimmitt AM said: “The days of inconsistent player activity statements are over. Wagering account holders will be better informed about their spending – and therefore better equipped to make informed decisions about their gambling – thanks to the clarity and fairness these changes bring.”

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Australia

Swifts Join the Fight Against Gambling Harm

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NSW Swifts and Giants have joined the NSW Government’s Reclaim the Game initiative.

Under the initiative, the Swifts and Giants will turn down sports betting sponsorship for the next two years, and will educate fans, players and staff about gambling harm in the community through messaging at home games and on digital and social media.

Reclaim the Game works with a total of 13 partners across 18 teams in six codes, including netball, AFL, A-League, cricket, NBL and NRL.

Since its launch in 2020, the initiative has reached millions of sports fans through more than 260 games, both on TV and in stadiums.

Minister for Gaming and Racing David Harris said: “It is fantastic to see more NSW teams join Reclaim the Game and raise community awareness of harms linked to sports betting and gambling. These partnerships are a strong reminder that you don’t need to have a bet to show support for your team.

“Netball ranks among Australia’s top sports, boasting more than 1.2 million players nationwide and is also the top choice for female athletes.

“The new partnerships with netball come at the perfect time as community interest in women’s sport soars with record nationwide participation in the sport and the Diamonds reclaiming the World Cup in South Africa.

“Elite players are role models for young athletes and fans. The Reclaim the Game partnerships with NSW Swifts and Giants Netball will engage a vast young fan base, ensuring they are protected from betting ads and can develop positive associations with sport.”

Netball NSW CEO Tracey Scott said: “On behalf of Netball NSW, I am delighted to welcome Reclaim the Game to our family across the NSW Swifts and the Giants Netball.

“Alongside some of NSW’s other cherished sporting teams and codes, we are proud to join Reclaim the Game which looks to reconnect fans with their love of the games they follow.

“As the most popular community sport in the state, and the leading elite female code, we are committed to playing a role in educating our fans, participants and the broader community about the risks associated with gambling and the harm it can cause.

“The joy of our game is its theatre, especially at Super Netball level when the NSW Swifts and GIANTS Netball go head-to-head with the world’s best, and we always look to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment for everyone to immerse themselves into the excitement of our game.”

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Australia

VGCCC Fines Bookmaker MintBet $100,000 for Repeat Breaches of its Responsible Gambling Code of Conduct

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The Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) has fined Victorian registered bookmaker MintBet $100,000 for repeated breaches of its Responsible Gambling Code of Conduct (Code) in relation to extended periods of gambling by a customer. The customer gambled through their online account with MintBet for 35 hours in a period of approximately 50 hours.

By the end of the customer’s betting period, they had placed 327 bets and lost $31,149.

The Commission found that MintBet did not stop accepting bets from the customer despite the customer displaying indicators of distress that may be related to problem gambling, as required by their Code.

MintBet closed the customer’s account only when the customer actively identified they were experiencing harm from their gambling.

The Commission also found that although MintBet had some systems in place to ensure vulnerable individuals do not experience a loss of control from their gambling, they were inadequate, also breaching a requirement of their Code.

In addition to issuing a fine, MintBet will be required to respond to the VGCCC about what improvements it will be making to its systems and processes. The VGCCC will consider MintBet’s response and determine whether further action might be necessary.

VGCCC Deputy CEO Scott May said: “Victorian gambling providers must comply with their responsible gambling codes of conduct. They exist to protect people from gambling harm. Even if accepting bets online, providers must monitor for and intervene when customers are displaying indicators of distress. Gambling for an extended period is a key indicator of distress that may indicate problem gambling. There are serious consequences for any gambling provider that fails to comply with their own responsible gambling code of conduct. We won’t tolerate it.”

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