Lose or be locked out; you bet!
If you gamble online, the odds are you are - sorry, there is no easy way to put this - a loser.
But the good thing is that someone still loves you very much - the bookies. And the odds are they are Poms.
The Poms are snapping up the corporate bookmakers. British juggernaut William Hill has splashed $700 million to bring Tom Waterhouse, Sportingbet and Centrebet into its stable of online betting brands while Sportsbet is owned by Paddy Power of Ireland.
And no wonder the big boys have moved in. Thanks to ultra-low tax rates in the Northern Territory, the takings are huge.
According to figures last week from the NT Department of Business, turnover now surpasses $5.7 billion a year, on which the bookies leaked just $2.35 million in tax, a rate of 0.05 per cent. Profits were $469.2 million last year, shared among the 12 licensed bookies.
Not surprisingly, the department has finally conceded a review is on the cards.
Besides the negligible tax rate, and the aggressive advertising that has expanded the overall market, there is a more insidious reason for the thumping profits.
Increasingly, the corporate bookmakers only take on losers. If you start beating them, they shut you down.
Professional punters and even successful amateurs are up in arms. BusinessDay canvassed a number whose accounts had been closed or restricted to small bets or products on which it is difficult to win.
One, Richard Irvine, tells his story for BusinessDay online.
Irvine has had his accounts closed or severely restricted by all of the five top online bookmakers in the territory: Luxbet, Sportingbet, Sportsbet, Centrebet and Bet365. Restrictions are as good as a closure, says Irvine, as the bookies no longer offer a fixed-price service. The point of difference to the TAB and its totalisator system is they offer fixed prices to their clients.
"The odds are locked in at the time of placing the bet, whereas the TAB totalisator system is a pool of money that is distributed by weight of money for a particular result. So, by not allowing you to bet fixed price with them, these bookies are effectively closing your account as well."
Wagering, like other businesses, has become an online affair. In the good old days, on-course bookies had been obliged to bet all comers, a rule that had been in place for decades. Since the latest regulatory shift by the territory government, though, the bookies are not obliged to bet anybody.
The Department of Business was unable to respond to this story by deadline. Corporate bookmakers contacted by BusinessDay did not deny placing restrictions on accounts.
A spokesman for Luxbet (owned by Tabcorp) said it had suspended a small number of customers for indiscretions such as "abusing a telephone operator or other breaches of conditions of use".
"It has not suspended customers solely for winning," said the spokesman. "It is standard global bookmaking practice as part of managing your book to place restrictions on some products for a very small segment of customers."
Those are the winners, says Richard Irvine, who did not, incidentally, abuse a telephone operator. Luxbet's email to Irvine says its restrictions are "a commercial decision made by the Luxbet senior management team".
Sportingbet told Irvine he was allowed to bet only on the website and could not call up and bet with an operator.
"I am not allowed any fixed-price bets. They offer me a tote product only. I tried to back a horse at odds of $41 in the Epsom at Randwick [one of the biggest races of the year] and was told I could have $3.75 on it. So, their liability would be $150. Not to mention it's a tote product, where they assume virtually no risk. Sportingbet is the biggest bookie in the country."
In a recent interview, Centrebet boss Michael Sullivan said the bookmaker "had not banned a punter for four years". But he agreed that his business reduced successful punters' outlays.
The conundrum for the territory is that its tax take used to be higher, before Tasmania abolished all taxes for bookies in 2009 in favour of a flat $256,000 fee. There is competition in this state market.
Then, in 2010, the territory replaced its turnover tax with a tax based on gross profits. A profit is easier to "game" than turnover.
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