Wagering company Sportsbet has been convicted of posting an illegal gambling advertisement online as a result of an investigation by Liquor & Gaming NSW. In Downing Centre Local Court on 7 March, the company was fined $10,000 and ordered to pay over $7,300 in legal costs for breaching NSW gaming laws. The prosecution related to an advertisement on the sportsbet.com.au website on 5 July 2018. The advertisement had an image in cartoon format of two males with their thumbs up that contained the following words:
“Refer a Friend – Get a $100 Bonus Bet for every friend you refer to join sportsbet.com.au (excl. VIC, NSW, WA & SA) Terms and Conditions” Under NSW law it is an offence to publish "a gambling advertisement that offers any inducement to participate, or participate frequently, in any gambling activity (including an inducement to open a betting account)." Bonus bets are expressly identified in guidelines published by Liquor & Gaming NSW (PDF 142.2 KB) as advertising that that will be considered as an inducement (irrespective of where they are accompanied by a disclaimer). Offers of bonus bets are considered to be an inducement as they are capable of persuading or encouraging a person to participate in gambling activity including to open a betting account. Under new laws that came into effect in July 2018, wagering operators found guilty of promoting inducements to gamble face fines of up to $55,000 per offence and company directors can be criminally prosecuted. The new laws have also closed loopholes whereby wagering operators have used fine print exclusion clauses to avoid prosecution. In sentencing Sportsbet, the Magistrate said there was a need for a penalty to show general deterrence to those operating in the industry and ensure other companies are vigilant in complying with the law. He noted that the NSW Parliament has increased penalties for illegal gambling advertising, and this raised the need for general deterrence.