The rapid growth in sports betting in Australia — confirmed last week by the largest TAB operator, Tabcorp, which recorded a 60% jump in revenue from its sports betting activities — is going to lead to renewed demands for greater regulation of sports betting, and revenue sharing with major sporting bodies.

In the 2006-2007 financial year, there was also massive growth in betting on the internet. In Tabcorp’s case it topped $1 billion for the first time – up 23% on the previous year.

Betting on sporting events totalled $185 million, led by the Australian Open tennis men’s final, followed by the State of Origin rugby league series.

The most popular sports for betting are rugby league, AFL, and soccer with online betting growing more rapidly than betting through agencies and telephone betting.

But sports betting with Tabcorp, and the other TAB agencies, still trails well behind the outlays through betting agencies and bookmakers. The Northern Territory based Sportingbet turned over close to $700 million in the first quarter this year alone, and there are at least half a dozen other major operators, including BetFair.

Last week’s third State of Origin match saw over $3 million put through the TAB sports betting agencies alone: there were around 20(!) betting options available for players.

And, unlike horse racing, betting on most sporting events can take place during the game. In the Origin game, Queensland opened as favourites, but at half time, the prices were reversed completely following the Maroons heavy injury toll.

Victorians were slower to embrace sports betting, but with more AFL games live on television, and the Socceroos participation in contests such as the Asian Cup, growth in online sports betting on the Victorian TAB rose by 63% last year.

It is probably a coincidence, but Victoria is leading Australia when it comes to the regulation of sports betting. Legislation was introduced in the Victorian Parliament in March to ensure sports on which we can bet have in place rigid processes to deny fraud, and to deliver to those sports a share of the revenue from betting on their sporting events. Let’s hope it stays that way.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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