Betfair demands all gambling operators set limits - Wednesday 4th of February 2009

ONE of Australias biggest online betting agencies has challenged racing ministers to force all gambling operators to offer customers pre-set spending limits.

Under pressure amid claims online betting companies were luring new gamblers with "free" bets, Betfair CEO Andrew Twaits denied that such offers were fuelling problem gambling.

"The offering of free bets is ... no different to pokie venues offering $3 roast meals to get people in the door or the local TAB offering free pizzas to get people in," he said.

Instead, Mr Twaits linked problem gambling to the unlimited anonymous betting offered by pokies venues, TABs and some online agencies.

"I think one of the real dangers with cash-based betting is that the wagering operator has no way of knowing whos betting with them and whether that person is betting beyond what they want to spend," Mr Twaits said.

"Wed be advocating that everything should be account-based, that all operators should allow customers to set loss limits."

Mr Twaits said Betfair invited customers to set daily, weekly and monthly loss limits, which could only be changed after a seven-day cooling-off.

All operators - including pokies venues, TABs and online agencies - should offer similar controls as a condition of their licence, he said.

The call won immediate support from Relationships Australias gambling help program leader Noel Condie.

"Im totally in favour of it," Mr Condie said. "We would like to see some sort of effective measure to help people to pre-commit (to a limit) before they gamble. It would give the gambler more control."

But Mr Condie disputed Betfairs claim that the offer of "free" bets of up to $1000 did not contribute to problem gambling.

Queensland Treasurer Andrew Fraser was also opposed to "free" bets, but said Queensland alone could not ban the practice since the High Court last year cleared the way for online betting agencies to operate across state borders.

"What we need here is a co-ordinated national approach," Mr Fraser said.

"Thats the only way we are going to be able to deal with this."

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