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The Voice Referendum Impact on Australian Gambling Companies

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Australia's leading gambling companies, known for taking bets on a wide array of events, have surprisingly refrained from offering odds on an unexpected subject: the upcoming voice referendum.

Absence from Voice Referendum

As the official campaign for the referendum, set for October 14th, gains momentum, many were taken aback by the absence of betting markets from these major players in the gambling industry.

In the past, gambling companies have eagerly offered odds on various state and federal elections, as well as briefly engaging in betting on the same-sex marriage plebiscite. However, the voice referendum seems to have struck a chord, causing major players such as Sportsbet, Betfair, Neds, Ladbrokes, and Betr to confirm that they will not open betting markets for the upcoming referendum.

When questioned about their decision, these companies declined to provide detailed explanations, leaving room for speculation.

One common sentiment emerging from these gambling companies is that the voice referendum is considered too divisive and not aligned with their desired image. Some believe that associating with such a contentious issue might lead to negative perceptions among the public, affecting their overall reputation.

This decision comes at a time when the gambling industry, along with its peak lobbying body Responsible Wagering Australia, has been quietly lobbying federal government ministers against recommendations for stricter regulations on gambling advertisements and trailing commissions. Another proof that Australia has more work to reach a stricter online gambling regime.

Politics amidst Voice Referendum Debate

The Alliance for Gambling Reform, a vocal advocate for stricter gambling regulations, points out a potential connection between the industry's decision to avoid betting on the referendum and their desire to maintain a favorable relationship with government officials.

The alliance suggests that the gambling industry is wary of provoking criticism while government ministers review calls for more stringent regulations. Carol Bennett, CEO of the Alliance for Gambling Reform, argues that the gambling industry's primary concern is safeguarding profits, even if it means sidelining moral considerations.

Bennett further contends that the reluctance of gambling companies to offer odds on the voice referendum is tied to their apprehension regarding the Albanese government's response to the recommendations outlined in the online gambling report.

The report proposes banning gambling advertising and inducements, a move that the industry fears would impact its lucrative promotions and business operations.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, co-chair of the parliamentary friends of gambling reform group, commended the decision of most gambling companies to abstain from accepting bets on the referendum.

Skepticism and Bold Moves

However, Wilkie's praise was tempered by skepticism, as he highlighted that the motivations behind the decision were likely self-serving. Wilkie emphasized that events of significant national importance, like the referendum, should not be treated casually, likening them to more than just a mere game of chance.

Interestingly, while major gambling companies are steering clear of the voice referendum, a smaller player, BlueBet, has taken a different stance. BlueBet opened its betting books in June, offering odds on the referendum's outcome. The company initially favored the "yes" campaign, but within a month, the tide shifted dramatically, with 95% of bets placed on the "no" vote prevailing.

Richard Hummerston, BlueBet’s Head of Partnerships and Content defended the company's decision to offer odds on the voice referendum. He stated that this move was in line with the industry's track record and willingness to engage in diverse betting opportunities.

As the voice referendum draws closer, the absence of major gambling companies from the betting arena on this issue continues to spark discussions about the industry's motives, regulatory implications, and its evolving relationship with the broader public.

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