A pricey error
Sportsbet is facing penalties and fines totaling AU$3.7m (US$2.66m) after sending over 150,000 unwanted emails and text messages to people who had attempted to unsubscribe, a violation of Australia’s spam laws.
the biggest fine of its kind to date.
Sportsbet now has to pay a fine of AU$2.5m (US$1.8m) for breaking the spam laws, the biggest fine of its kind to date. The other AU$1.2m (US$862,500) is the total sum of the refunds that the operator is paying to users who placed bets after they got these unwanted messages.
About 37,000 people received spam messages from Sportsbet between January 2020 and March 2021. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) explained that the messages were either notifying people of upcoming horse races or offering gambling incentives. There were also about 3,000 text messages sent to people, not offering a way for people to unsubscribe.
Rectifying the failings
ACMA chairperson Nerida O’Loughlin explained that Sportsbet continued to send spam messages despite ACMA contacting the operator numerous times regarding the issue. O’Loughlin said that the company did not take proper action.
As a result of the violations, Sportsbet will now have to appoint an independent arbiter who will oversee all of the refunds, as well as an independent consultant to audit the operator and oversee its implementation of recommendations.
In a statement, Sportsbet accepted ACMA’s findings and issued an apology to impacted customers. The operator blamed the sending of the messages on “technical and systems failures that regrettably meant not all customer unsubscribe requests were actioned in a timely manner.”
Sportsbet stopped all forms of email marketing for a number of months and has now upgraded its system to make sure that the issue does not arise again. It is “committed to ensuring that past failings are not repeated.”
Links to gambling-related harm
There have been extensive calls in Australia to completely ban gambling-related ads. Financial Counselling Australia and Suicide Prevention Australia released a report on Wednesday on the subject. They believe that advertising is a big contributor to gambling harm, as people who are trying to stop gambling have a tough time staying away from pro-gambling messages.
Young people and children are also getting regular exposure to messages that often appear to normalize gambling. The report outlines possible changes that could address some of the issues. This includes legislative tweaks, banks banning debt-funded gambling, and operators improving their harm minimization measures.