Australian gambling operators seem reluctant to open betting markets on the upcoming Indigenous Voice referendum scheduled to take place on October 14 of this year. Licensed sportsbooks servicing the local market rarely shy away from taking wagers on political events, including state and federal elections. Some like Sportsbet have even briefly quoted odds on the outcome of the same-sex marriage national survey conducted in late 2017. However, no major sportsbook has so far ventured to open bets on the upcoming referendum that could introduce an Indigenous Voice to Parliament and give ethnic minorities more say on government policies.
Companies like Ladbrokes, Neds, Betfair, Betr, and Sportsbet have all confirmed they have no intentions of opening bets on this referendum, without specifying the exact reasons for their decision. Controversy is one possible explanation for their reluctance. Many consider the referendum in question to be way too divisive, arguing that betting operators are unwilling to associate themselves with such a contentious topic.
Others insist that the operators are currently lobbying the government not to prohibit gambling advertisements and impose a ban on the so-called “trailing” commissions. Said commissions are collected by affiliate websites that refer customers to betting operators and are often paid from the losses gamblers subsequently incur. Alliance for Gambling Reform, an organisation that seeks to reduce gambling-related harm, shares this opinion.
According to the organisation, the operators’ reluctance to take bets on the controversial referendum and their simultaneous lobbying against the gambling advertising ban are connected. Betting companies simply do not want to spark criticism as the government reviews calls for stricter regulatory measures on the gambling industry. Carol Bennett, Chief Executive Officer of the Alliance, commented gambling operators have proven time and again that they prioritise profitability over moral considerations.
Some Argue Operators Are Merely Trying to Keep MPs on Their Side
Bennett is confident the operators are concerned about the ministers’ response to the recommendations to outlaw gambling ads and trailing commissions, hence their reluctance to open markets for the 2023 Indigenous Voice referendum. Offering such wagers would only add fuel to the fire at a time when the gambling industry needs to keep the government on its side.
Independent Member of Parliament Andrew Wilkie commended the decision of most gambling operators to refrain from opening bets on the upcoming referendum. In his opinion, this vote is way too important to be regarded as a regular football match. Nonetheless, MP Wilkie is positive the primary motivations behind the companies’ decision were fully “self-serving”.
BlueBet, which was recently investigated in Victoria over advertising breaches, is among the few sportsbooks to take bets on the referendum. The smaller company opened markets for the event shortly after the Constitution Alteration (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice) 2023 Bill passed the Senate in June. At the time, the overwhelming majority of punters (95%) backed the “No” vote. The sportsbook’s Head of Content Richard Hummerston explained that BlueBet is not advocating for either vote but is merely giving local punters the opportunity to place wagers on the referendum’s outcome.
The same-sex marriage national survey also sparked controversy in 2017. Online gambling company Sportsbet faced criticism for its decision to offer odds on the outcome, a move some people like Alex Greenwich considered insensitive. The leader of the Australian Marriage Equality organisation called wagering on the validity of some Aussies’ relationships “a whole new low”.
Daniel Williams has started his writing career as a freelance author at a local paper media. After working there for a couple of years and writing on various topics, he found his interest for the gambling industry.