New South Wales racing and media powerbrokers lobbied furiously to get exemptions from laws that were supposed to stop problem gamblers being lured to bet, documents have revealed.
- The laws strengthened bans on betting inducements, like bonus bets and sign up offers
- Racing NSW, Seven West Media and Racing.com lobbied Liquor and Gaming NSW against the laws
- Liquor and Gaming NSW agreed dedicated online, print, radio and TV racing platforms should be exempt
The laws, which tightened regulations for advertising being targeted at punters, were introduced by the NSW Government in March.
However, documents obtained by The Greens under freedom of information laws reveal the Berejiklian Government buckled to pressure from racing industry heavyweights and their media partners.
Racing’s place in Sydney’s social and sporting fabric has been in the spotlight this week, after the NSW Government’s decision to allow advertising for “The Everest” horse race to be projected on the sails of the Opera House tonight.
More than 200,000 people have signed a petition against the decision.
Two weeks after the laws passed parliament, Racing NSW, Seven West Media and Racing.Com wrote to Liquor and Gaming NSW outlining their concerns.
Liquor and Gaming NSW subsequently released guidelines which effectively gave an advertising exemption to websites, publications and broadcast channels that deal exclusively with racing.
Greens MP Justin Field said the Government had put the interests of the racing and wagering ahead of the community.
“These documents show there is an organised coalition of vested interests that have been working to shape gambling and racing laws to protect their profits against the public interest,” Mr Field said.
Laws would have ‘detrimental effect’
The laws strengthened bans on betting inducements, like bonus bets and sign-up offers.
The letter sent to Liquor and Gaming NSW described wagering as racing’s primary source of income and its “raison d’etre”.
It was signed by the Racing NSW’s chief executive Peter Vlandys, Seven West Media boss Tim Worner and Andrew Catterall, the chief executive of Racing.com.
It said new inducement laws would have a “significant detrimental effect” on racing advertising nationally, and in NSW.
It called for exemptions for specialised racing websites, print publications, national broadcast channels such as Sky 1, and racing programs on free-to-air television including Channel 7.
The letter argued the changes should not apply to those platforms because audiences of thoroughbred racing were “essentially a niche audience of adults who are already ‘active’ wagering customers”.
“For this reason, any special offer advertised within dedicated racing content does not have the effect of ‘inducing’ wagering by anyone that had not already made an active decision that they are interested in placing a bet,” the letter read.
Racing NSW CEO Peter V’Landys (L) and Seven West Media boss Tim Worner signed the letter. (ABC News and AAP: David Moir)
In a detailed response sent the following month, deputy secretary of Liquor and Gaming NSW Paul Newson agreed to some of the changes the racing industry was asking for, including an exemption for dedicated online, television, print and radio racing platforms.
He did not accept the broader request to exclude other mediums that publish or broadcast racing content, such as Channel 7, from the laws.
“The Racing NSW CEO’s own lobbying letter acknowledges gambling is the thoroughbred racing industries reason for existing,” Mr Field said.
“The racing industry has made clear that their business model is entirely based on being able to induce people to continue to gamble and they have co-opted the NSW Government to support them in that aim,” he said.
A spokesperson for Racing Minister Paul O’Toole said free-to-air commercial television broadcasters, newspapers and websites in NSW were now “subject to the toughest rules in the country for gambling advertising”.
“Liquor and Gaming NSW listened to the racing industry, but did not agree with most of their arguments,” the spokesperson said.