Excluded Player Illegally Targeted
Online betting platform PlayUp has been fined AUD7,500 ($5,246, £4,035, €4,705) for targeting a vulnerable player who had self-excluded two years earlier and terminated their account.
The player filed a formal complaint with the New South Wales gambling regulator, Liquor & Gaming NSW. The complaint said PlayUp had sent a promotional email offering free bets, even though they had opted out of further emails from the platform.
According to Liquor & Gaming NSW, it is an offense under the NSW Betting and Racing Act to “advertise any inducement to participate in any gambling activity, including an inducement to open a betting account, when someone does not hold a betting account.” Promotions can only be sent to a platform’s registered gamblers.
PlayUp pled guilty at the April 30 trial at Downing Centre Local Court, Sydney. Magistrate Georgina Darcy fined the company AUD7,500 plus AUD3,000 ($2,100, £1,614) legal costs.
Darcy said the former bettor who received the targeted email was “a vulnerable person.” According to Liquor & Gaming NSW, “she accepted the prosecution’s submission that the email was an inducement to set up a gambling account.”
Sean Goodchild, director of compliance operations at Liquor & Gaming NSW, said the NSW Betting and Racing Act was “designed to protect people from gambling harm.”
He said: “If someone chooses to exclude themselves from the services of a betting operator, sending them any promotional material as an inducement is clearly unacceptable. Self-exclusion systems help reduce the risk of problem gambling, so operators need to be vigilant in ensuring that they adequately maintain any self-exclusion data on their customers to avoid situations where vulnerable people are targeted with gambling inducements.”
PlayUp’s fine serves as a timely warning to other gambling platforms to comply with the law. Liquor & Gaming NSW is pursuing a crackdown on rogue operators. It has recently fined Sportschamps, PointsBet, and Sportsbet various sums for regulatory breaches.
In March, Sportsbet pled guilty over a “refer a friend” advertisement that offered AUD100 bets to customers for each referral. The regulator said it was an “illicit inducement” and fined Sportsbet AUD10,000 (USD7,000; £5,374) plus more than AUD7,300 ($5,102; £3,923 in legal fees.
In April, online gambling operator Sportchamps was convicted for an illegal advertisement that appeared on its website in July 2018. The ad said: “Matched first time deposit bonus up to $50 – Deposit for the first time and we’ll match your deposit with Bonus Cash, up to $50. Keep the winnings from Bonus Cash.” The courts deemed this was an inducement to gamble and fined Sportschamps AUD1,780 ($1,244; £957) for posting the illegal ad, plus AUD2,316 ($1,619; £1,245) in legal costs.
Liquor & Gaming NSW is using increased powers to prosecute such regulatory breaches. Updated laws that came into effect in July last year mean betting companies can be fined up to AUD39,000 ($27,258; £20,960) per offense if found guilty of promoting inducements to gamble. Company directors can now also be prosecuted in the criminal courts.
The updated laws have also closed a legal loophole. In the past, gambling operators used fine-print exclusion clauses to cover themselves when publishing promotional offers to entice players. But the latest round of court cases and fines indicates that flouting regulations will no longer be tolerated.