Australia's Sportsbet Fined Millions For Spamming Customers

February 10, 2022
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Flutter Entertainment-owned Australian corporate bookmaker Sportsbet has been walloped with a A$3.7m ($2.7m) fine and compensation combo, and will undergo a governance review after spamming customers for more than a year.

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Flutter Entertainment-owned Australian corporate bookmaker Sportsbet has been walloped with a A$3.7m ($2.7m) fine and compensation combo, and will undergo a governance review after spamming customers for more than a year.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), the national online gambling regulator, announced on Tuesday (February 8) that it had fined Sportsbet A$2.5m — a record under anti-spam legislation.

The ACMA also secured Sportsbet’s agreement to refund customers an additional A$1.2m in wagers linked to its advertising campaign.

“An ACMA investigation found Sportsbet sent more than 150,000 marketing text messages and emails to over 37,000 consumers who had tried to unsubscribe,” the regulator said in a statement. “Sportsbet also sent over 3,000 marketing texts that had no unsubscribe function.”

ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said the commercial electronic messages (CEMs) included “incentives to consumers to place bets or contained alerts about upcoming races” and were sent between January 2020 and March 2021, prompting complaints from problem gamblers trying to unsubscribe.

O’Loughlin said Sportsbet failed to respond appropriately after several ACMA warnings of “compliance problems”.

“Sportsbet’s failures in this matter had the real potential to contribute to financial and emotional harm to these people and their families,” she said.

“We will be actively monitoring Sportsbet’s compliance and the commitments it has made to the ACMA.”

Sportsbet’s A$1.2m compensation program must be completed in about six months and be overseen by an independent party.

The company has also agreed to implement recommendations of an external review into the company’s “procedures, policies, training and systems”, the statement said.

The court-enforceable agreement requires Sportsbet to appoint both a compensation arbiter and an independent consultant for the review, at its own cost and with ACMA approval.

Following submission of its reform implementation plan to the ACMA, Sportsbet must then provide six-monthly compliance reports to the ACMA that include company actions on spam and other complaints.

The massive fine for Sportsbet follows a November conviction in New South Wales (NSW) state for similar offences, its second conviction of 2021.

Sportsbet was ordered to pay A$135,000, one of the largest such fines in a long series of bookmaker prosecutions launched by the NSW government, for transmitting prohibited advertising via email and social media, including to former customers who withdrew consent to receive such material.

Meanwhile, Victoria state’s revamping gambling regulator reported a rare prosecution of a corporate bookmaker — BetEasy, now folded into Sportsbet — suggesting online bookmakers will now need to pay greater heed to legal risk outside NSW.

The renamed Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) prosecuted BetEasy for offering a reward as an inducement to open a betting account. The Melbourne Magistrates’ Court fined the company A$5,000 and ordered it to pay the regulator’s costs of A$4,400.

The offending inducement took place between 2019 and 2020, before the merger of Sportsbet and EasyBet’s foreign parent companies, but the conviction is notable for the magistrate fining the company above the maximum amount because the “financial penalty was too low in this case”, a VGCCC statement said on Wednesday.

Magistrate Robert Stary did not record the conviction, but placed BetEasy on a good behaviour bond and ordered it to pay a “substantial contribution” to the state-funded Gambler’s Help support network.

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