Tabcorp takes umbrage at offshore operators

Tabcorp wants the government to impose restrictions on offshore operators marketing online gaming to Australians.

Tabcorp wants the government to impose restrictions on offshore operators marketing online gaming to Australians.

Speaking after Tabcorp posted a 63 per cent fall in its annual profit on Friday, chief executive David Attenborough said he would like to see the government ban offshore betting firms from taking bets in Australia.

"An offshore operator should not be allowed to take an Australian resident bet," he told BusinessDay.

"Some countries around the world have dealt with this by just making it illegal for an [offshore] gambling company or operator to take bets from their citizens.

"France has instituted that, so now we don't take any French bets."

Tabcorp's annual profits have slumped on the back of changes to Victoria's poker machine licensing. The changes, which came into effect last August, mean the $2.6 billion spent annually on pokies in Victorian clubs is now split between the state government and the venues.

"The 2013 financial year was the first year of the new wagering and gaming licence structure in Victoria, which we knew would have an impact on Tabcorp's earnings and operations," Mr Attenborough said. "Tabcorp has had a successful year, while managing significant change."

Tabcorp competes with several big international betting players in Australia, such as Bet365, Paddy Power and William Hill. Most of the bigger firms have registered gaming sites in Australia, but others are registered overseas or have both local and offshore accounts.

William Hill, for example, is registered in Australia through Sportingbet and now Tom Waterhouse, but its Gibralta-registered websites are still accessible to Australians.

William Hill chief executive Ralph Topping hit out at Tabcorp on Friday, calling it a "comfortable monopoly". "We are keen to take on comfortable monopolies," he said. "I don't think they have a place in the modern world. Monopolies often mean weak management, weak performance."

However, Mr Topping also backed calls for tighter regulation of offshore gambling. "You have a situation where Australians are betting overseas with underground operations on the internet. That is not good for the consumer."

Tabcorp reported a net profit of $126.6 million for the year to June 30. Its revenue was also down 30 per cent for the period, to $2.1 billion.

While it would not give a guidance for the current financial year, it said poor consumer confidence and weak trading conditions had affected its fourth quarter.

The company also revealed it was making a $18.6 million write-down against the carrying value of its Victorian Keno licence, due to softer trading conditions. Tabcorp shares fell 3 per cent on the results to end the week at $3.27.

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