Flutter-Owned Sportsbet Hit With AU$135,000 Fine Over Advertising Failures

  • Sportsbet ads had inducements to bet, and the operator sent marketing to opted-out people
  • Australia’s largest online sportsbook committed the offenses from October 2020 to March 2021
  • Sportsbet received a fine of AU$22,000 (US$16,047) in March for other ad breaches
  • Research shows that most people in NSW are not happy with how operators advertise
Man with cash next to fine bricks
Sportsbet has received a fine of AU$135,000 (US$98,472) in New South Wales for numerous advertising failures. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Numerous offenses

Sportsbet has received an AU$135,000 (US$98,472) fine from the Liquor & Gaming New South Wales (NSW) agency for advertising failures.

Sportsbet pleading guilty to five charges

Officials outlined the offenses last Friday in Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court, with Sportsbet pleading guilty to five charges. The Flutter Entertainment-owned brand allegedly showcased ads featuring an inducement to bet and sent emails to people who had opted out of receiving marketing correspondence.

A Sportsbet spokesperson maintained that the operator did not intentionally break the law but acknowledged that it had not met its obligations. They added that the operator has made changes to stop similar breaches from occurring again in the future.

The specific failures

Between October 2020 and March 2021, Australia’s largest online sportsbook sent numerous emails to people who did not give their consent to receive such marketing. According to Liquor & Gaming NSW, users’ repeated efforts to unsubscribe from these emails proved “unsuccessful due to the confusing functionality of the unsubscribe option.”

Authorities also conducted an audit of the operator’s social media feeds in November 2020 and discovered prohibited gambling ads. The marketing advertised a “Treasure Punt” promotion offering big bonuses to random users.

Under Australia’s Betting and Racing Act, operators are not able to showcase ads that offer people any sort of inducement to take part in gambling activity. This includes any welcome bonus offers for gamblers who set up a betting account.

Continually breaking the rules

This is not the first time that Sportsbet has received a fine so far this year. In March, officials hit the operator with an AU$22,000 (US$16,047) fine for other advertising-related failures.

119 advertising law breaches by 14 operators this year

So far in 2021, the NSW gambling regulator has started more than double the number of prosecutions that took place in 2020. Authorities have penalized 119 advertising law breaches by 14 operators this year. That compares to 31 breaches from seven operators last year.

Head of campaigns for the Alliance for Gambling Reform Dr. Kate Da Costa believes that operators continue to breach advertising rules because there is only a slim chance of getting caught. She also noted that they only have to pay small fines, which they see as just a cost of doing business. Instead, Da Costa wants Australia to completely ban all forms of gambling advertising.

A serious issue

Speaking recently, Liquor & Gaming NSW compliance director Marcel Savary pointed to research completed in 2020 by the NSW Office of Responsible Gambling which he believes showcases that the majority of people in the region are not happy with gambling advertisements.

The research found that 81% of Australians think ads increase the risk of gambling problems. Liquor & Gaming NSW said it will continue to monitor gambling operators when it comes to advertising and will “take strong action for serious and blatant offending.”

TopSport and Tabcorp also recently received fines for advertising failures. The former got an AU$60,000 (US$43,765) fine in August over an ad that contained an inducement to bet, while Tabcorp paid a fine of more than AU$30,000 (US$21,882) for an ad campaign sent to people who had already closed their betting accounts.

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