BlueBet fined in Victoria over advertising breaches

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BlueBet was found guilty of 43 charges of displaying gambling advertising on or above a public road. This is an offence under the Gambling Regulation Act 2003 in Victoria.

The VGCCC investigation following a complaint from a member of the public. During two weeks in August and September 2022, BlueBet adverts appeared on digital billboards at several locations on freeways. 

Such breaches led the VGCCC to file charges against BlueBet and the case has since been heard in court. During the court hearing, Magistrate Greg Thomas said he found it difficult to accept BlueBet’s defence that it did not know it was breaching the law, given the prime position of the billboards to target males aged 15-54 years old. 

Thomas did not record a conviction but said if the breaches were accidental, this showed a “high degree” of negligence. Ruling on the case, BlueBet was found guilty of 43 charges of displaying gambling advertising on or above a public road.

Thomas said that he would have fined BlueBet $70,000 and recorded a conviction. However, considering the guilty plea, cooperation with the VGCCC and changes BlueBet implemented to prevent these breaches from happening again, a lower amount was agreed.

BlueBet must now pay the $50,000 and also cover all costs agreed with the VGCCC. 

“Gambling advertising has no place on public roads where it is readily visible to children and other vulnerable groups,” VGCCC CEO Annette Kimmitt said. “These places are especially difficult to avoid as part of day-to-day activities. This decision sends a clear message to wagering providers that flout these protections for our community.”

Victoria operators face new online measures

The ruling comes in the wake of Victoria introducing new rules regarding online gambling accounts. These include how players view their spending and losses.

Effective 1 April, the changes focus on how certain information is displayed to players within their online gambling accounts. This includes information on spending, with their net loss now to exclude free and bonus bets. In addition, players’ monthly net win statements will subtract all stakes from their total pay-out amount.

Meanwhile, licensees must use plain English and avoid unnecessary jargon when presenting data. Gambling harm messaging should feature on monthly statements.

Victoria has been taking steps to better protect consumers from gambling harm. In recent months, the VGCCC has increased its efforts to clamp down on operators breaching rules.

This month, MintBet was fined AU$150,000 for repeated breaches of responsible gambling rules. In January, Tabcorp was ordered to make most of its electronic betting terminals cashless following multiple incidents of underage gambling.

New era for BlueBet

As for BlueBet, the fine will come as a blow but will not distract from the recent acquisition news. Last week, BlueBet entered a binding asset sale agreement to acquire the Betr wagering business

This, BlueBet said, will allow it to create an enlarged organisation in Australia with increased scale and market share. BlueBet will issue approximately 265.4 million fully paid shares to Betr shareholders. This equates to around 56.9% of BlueBet’s current shares.

The deal is subject to closing conditions, including the backing of BlueBet shareholders. BlueBet “unanimously” recommended shareholders vote in favour of the merger, saying it will create material value.

If all conditions are met, BlueBet expects to complete the deal by 1 July.

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