The Australian Football League (AFL) has started lobbying government for an exemption or revision of current legislation that prohibits Australian betting operators from offering internet markets once a game has started.
The AFL wants to introduce the facility of unlimited "in game" betting for Aussie punters keen on supporting their favourite footy teams.
Such a change in the law could mean a flood of betting business to online gambling companies like Betfair, the Herald Sun newspaper points out, adding that the move is modelled on English football betting which permits betting at any stage of a match on the winner, loser, highest goal-scorer and winning margin.
Some 75 percent of all English Premier League betting is made "in-play", where live odds fluctuate wildly.
The federal government is believed to be open to the changes, but is leery of criticism that it may incur from anti-gambling bodies.
Betfair's Australian subsidiary execs estimate local Internet restrictions are losing the industry about A$ 300 million a year to overseas operators.
In documents filed with a federal inquiry into gambling, the AFL has called for amendments to the Interactive Gambling Act.
"In-play betting is extremely popular worldwide as a form of gambling, and if consumers are not able to access it online in Australia, they might elsewhere with overseas operators," the submission says. It seems inconsistent that a consumer can bet 'in-play' via telephone but not online.
"Specifically, the AFL would like to suggest amendments to the Interactive Gambling Act 2001, such that betting online during sports events, or after an event has commenced, is no longer prohibited."
The Herald Sun reports that the AFL also complained it was suffering financial losses because it did not have a product fee relationship with overseas betting shops. It pockets about A$ 2 million a season through partnerships with Betfair and Tabcorp, a figure that's expected to double if the changes go through.
Cricket Australia has backed the push for "in-play" betting, the newspaper reports.
In a separate submission to the inquiry lodged by Betfair, the company said phone betting was too slow and impractical when the result of an AFL match hung in the balance.
"By the time an Australian customer telephones to make an in-play transaction, the odds will have changed . . . the opportunity has been missed," it says. "The availability of an in-play betting option gives punters (particularly sophisticated ones, who are most likely to use online wagering services) the ability to better manage risk.
"Australia is the only jurisdiction in the world that allows online wagering but at the same time prevents punters from using the Internet to place in-play bets."
Betfair said infamous micro-bets, including a market on how many cricketers would take to the field wearing sunglasses, would not be offered.
The AFL also pointed out that the changes permitting in-play betting would provide greater integrity of AFL events through information-sharing agreements with registered betting operators.
An AFL spokesman confirmed the league's involvement in the push for change. "If the prohibition continues, it will encourage Australians to gamble with unregulated and unauthorised offshore operators, which will hinder the AFL's integrity measures and ability to monitor wagering on our game," Brian Walsh said.
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