Victoria state to ban free betting

The Australian province of Victoria will soon join fellow states New South Wales and South Australia in banning the offering of free bets to new gamblers, reports the Herald Sun newspaper this week. Legislation now before the State Parliament will make it illegal for bookmakers to offer inducements to new punters.

Free bets are offered by most corporate bookmakers, the newspaper claims, reporting that Luxbet, which is owned by Tabcorp, and Betfair have already withdrawn their free bet service. However, other major bookie firms like Centrebet, Sportingbet Australia and Sportsbet are still offering free bets.

Since the lifting of advertising restrictions late last year, corporate bookmakers have flooded the market with promotional offers, resulting in a significant rise in client numbers.

Racing Victoria chief executive Rob Hines welcomed news of the impending ban. "It's a responsible gambling issue," he said. We have always held the view that people should be very cautious in their betting."

Betfair chief executive Andrew Twaits said his company had "voluntarily" stopped offering free bets last month. "We don't believe free bets cause problem gambling, but we can see governments banning them nationwide and we believe we have some unique points of difference," he said. "We want to start focusing on them now. Ours is a strategic decision."

Twaits queried how far-reaching the legislation would be. He asked if it would preclude PubTABS and TABs offering inducements by way of free meals or happy hours to attract punters.

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