February 4, 2009 (InfoPowa News) — Betfair Australia's feisty CEO Andrew Twaits responded to recent criticism of online gambling sign up bonuses with a challenge of his own this week — the government should make it compulsory to do more in the responsible gambling milieu by requiring operators to offer gamblers a facility to pre-set their spending limits.
Twaits refuted recent claims by anti-online gambling activists and politicians that bonus offers fuelled problem gambling, the newspaper The Courier Mail reported.
"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," Twaits said, giving an alternative view that problem gambling can instead be linked 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 who's betting with them and whether that person is betting beyond what they want to spend," Betfair's Australian head man opined.
"We'd be advocating that everything should be account-based, that all operators should allow customers to set loss limits."
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 license, he said.
The call won immediate support from Relationships Australia's gambling help program leader Noel Condie.
"I'm totally in favor of it," 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."
However, Condie disputed Betfair's claim that the offer of "free" bets of up to $1,000 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," Fraser said. "That's the only way we are going to be able to deal with this."
Betfair was also in the news this week with its investigation into what could be another tennis online betting scandal.  The company's advanced technology that enables it to minutely analyse betting patterns is a powerful weapon in the drive to eliminate corruption from gambling on tennis matches, and is deployed in suspicious cases.
In the latest incident, Betfair is examining bets associated with a tennis match in Zagreb over the weekend. Betting websites have claimed "an in-the-run coup appears to have been landed" after Croat Antonio Veic upset Argentine Guillermo Canas. The wildcard, ranked 255th in the world, beat Canas 4-6 6-4 6-2.
Canas opened as a 1.11 favorite pre-match with Betfair. But, after winning the first set, Canas drifted to $7.00. At the same time, Veic shortened from $7.40 to $1.10 as suggestions emerged Canas may have had an arm injury.
"We are aware of the speculation surrounding the betting patterns on this match," a statement from Betfair advised. "This market will remain suspended pending internal investigation."

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