Monday, June 29, 2009

Gold Coast a 'haven' for betting scams - ABC News - 25th June 2009

A joint operation involving police, the Office of Fair Trading and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is cracking down on sport betting scams in Queensland.

Authorities say Australians have lost up to $20 million because of fraudulent or misleading sport betting companies over the past two years.

Peter Kell from the ACCC says people should beware of schemes that seem to be good to be true.

"The climate is unfortunately ripe for scams and consumer losses in this area we've seen more and more consumers engaging in online trading," he said.

"We've also seen obviously a loss of confidence in the mainstream investment markets."

Authorities say the Gold Coast is a haven for the scams.

Detective Superintendent Brian Hay says 39 Gold Coast companies were targeted last month, but most were no longer at their registered address.

"Unfortunately what we're seeing is hundreds of people being ensnared, some large sums of money are involved and unfortunately a lot of people's dreams are going to be shattered and their lives changed forever," he said.

Detective Superintendant Hay says some of the companies have failed to honour unrealistic odds, while others have simply disappeared with the money bet.

"You are not going to get a quick turnaround on an investment to the volume that they've been promoted by these professional products... they certainly look professional these glossy brochures these slick talking advertising marketing people that telephone you," he said.

"It's fraught with danger: don't get excited, get advice." (Credit: ABC)

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Gambling scams expose regulation deficiencies - Yahoo! News - 29th June 2009

Sport is an Australian national obsession, but it seems some con men are taking advantage of that passion for their financial gain.

Moreover, some of the firms conducting the scams remain registered as companies long after suspicions first surface about their bona fides.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) registers companies and regulates investment schemes, but does not regulate gambling schemes, even when they pose as investments.

Betting scheme crackdown
The authorities that are responsible for regulating gambling schemes are the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the state departments of fair trading and, in the cases of criminal fraud, police.

The ACCC and the Queensland Police and Office of Fair Trading this week launched a joint campaign against sport arbitrage and gambling schemes and scams based on the Gold Coast.

They say hundreds of Australians have fallen prey to such operators, and buying into investment schemes which claim to give you access to computer software which will help you gamble successfully, is likely to be a losing bet.

"It's estimated that up to $20 million may have been lost by Australian consumers in these schemes. It's hard to tell at this stage exactly how much, but we're talking about a lot of money," ACCC deputy chairman Peter Kell said.

He says up-front fees of $3,000 to 19,000 are commonly charged for access to gambling software, or syndicates that place the bets for you.

And the Queensland Police say they have had one unlucky punter come forward who invested $146,000 between two of these companies.

While it may seem ridiculous for anyone to invest so much money into such a scheme, the authorities say the marketing materials usually look very professional, and these organisations occasionally pool resources to avoid the appearance of a one-man show.

"We found an office where six companies were located where they shared telemarketing staff and other facilities," said Joe Camilleri from Queensland's Office of Fair Trading.

The ACCC says a loss of confidence in the mainstream markets during the financial crisis is tempting consumers to look for alternatives.

"We've seen a 60 per cent increase in scams reported to us over the last year, and a 67 per cent increase in the number of people reporting losses," Mr Kell said.

Take the money and run
While some of these companies do actually bet on your behalf, Mr Camilleri says others just walk away with the cash.

"About 50 per cent of complainants are telling us that, once they pay their money to the operators of these schemes, they are no longer able to contact these companies," he said.

Even where the companies do actually place bets, the authorities say the returns are rarely anywhere near those promised or hinted at, and they have had staff from some of these operations come forward and tell them that the bets came straight from the newspaper form guide.

Fair Trading and the Queensland police tried to visit 39 sports betting schemes based on the Gold Coast, but they found only 8 operating at their registered addresses.

Authorities say more than 650 complaints have been lodged since the beginning of last year, and Detective Superintendent Brian Hay say the schemes have been multiplying rapidly.

"There's a whole plethora of different circumstances, environments, entities. This is not one or two people, it's not one or two companies, it's almost if you like a nefarious, insidious industry that has populated a certain landscape," he said.

First hand experience
Although Queensland based, the schemes do not just target Queenslanders, but the authorities say most of the complaints have come from there and New South Wales.

Recently I received a call from a Brisbane-based company claiming past returns of between 26 and 95 per cent a month on its horse racing scheme.

I cannot name it, because it may be one of the organisations currently under investigation, but I was only too happy to hear their spiel so I could share it with ABC News Online readers.

In return for having this company manage a gambling account using their computer system, I was asked for an $8,800 dollar sign-up fee, and between $1,000 and $10,000 in capital to start the gambling account.

In their sales pitch, the company claimed its software system was developed by a former employee of Kerry Packer, who their salesman said used to help Mr Packer with his horse racing picks.

The company also claimed it had been around for 15 years, but a quick search of the ASIC database revealed it was only registered in May last year.

When I searched internet investor forums, dozens of people had been given similar offers from the same company.

Nick Miller from South Australia responded to my post on the forum and gave me a call. He says he was rung about eight times over a period of several weeks by this company.

"It was heavy pressure selling," he said.

"It was, 'we've only got so many spots left for South Australia, we've got one left in South Australia, and one for NSW so you'd better sign up now or you'll miss out,' and then I just said, no I'm not interested in it."

Company registration
While Mr Miller smelt a rat and did not invest despite their persistence, he is concerned about how easy it is for such businesses to set up and remain as legally registered companies.

"When I was talking to this Tom guy he said, 'as you know we're regulated, we're required, every year we have to register with ASIC', he made some reference to that," he said.

"It sort of shocked me a little bit to think that there could be rogue operators like this that have obviously got a registration."

ASIC told the ABC that gambling schemes are not classified as investments and therefore do not fall under its jurisdiction.

But ASIC is responsible for company registers, and ASIC's database reveals that the regulator got information last November that the Brisbane company which contacted me and Mr Miller is no longer at its registered address.

Mr Kell says that is a good reason why consumers should not rely solely on the companies register when checking the legitimacy of a firm.

"One of the messages we have to send here, because it has been used in the marketing by these companies, is that simply registering a company doesn't make it immediately trustworthy," he said.

The length of time taken to investigate dodgy companies, and the apparent difficulty in shutting operations down until well after they have swindled thousands of dollars from investors, raises some serious questions about consumer protection regulation, and the funding of investigation and enforcement in Australia.

Given that it seems unlikely that regulators will be given the resources needed to better filter companies when they first start up, the ACCC says consumer awareness is the best defence.

"With these sports investment schemes the only certain bet is that you'll lose money," Mr Kell said. Michael would be interested in hearing from anyone who has invested in a horse racing or sport gambling scheme. You can contact him via email at abcbiztips@gmail.com. (Credit: Yahoo! News)

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Punters Cheated by up to 40 Sports Betting Operators - Gambling911 - 25th June 2009

Our man on the scene in Australia, Greg Tingle, has notified us of a major cheating scandal down under involving some 40 operators allegedly ripping off punters in Queensland.

The Courier-Mail can reveal Office of Fair Trading investigators are chasing millions of dollars lost by hundreds of punters through 30 so-called sporting arbitrage companies, mostly from the Gold Coast.

Half these companies have vanished, according to reports.

Sporting arbitrage involves customers being offered "guaranteed" wins by spreading their bets on all possible outcomes with different bookmakers.

According to the Courier-Mail story, the probe has also embroiled nine software firms, such as Bundall-based Sports Investment Services, which touts sports betting returns of 56 per cent compared with only 6 and 9 per cent on the share and property markets.

About 650 punters have filed complaints and were unable to contact companies once they paid membership fees of between $3000 and $19,000.

"They are simply scams which are designed to take the money of unwitting consumers," Fair Trading Minister, Peter Lawlor, said. "We also found that once these companies start receiving complaints from their clients, they often simply close down and start up again somewhere else under a new name."

The probe, which has also involved the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, does not involve mainstream betting companies such as UNiTAB or Betfair.

Sports Investment Services director Mark Henderson last night said he had had several complaints, but insisted he had done nothing wrong and sold software to help pick winners.

"It gives clients stand-out picks to bet on," he said.

Asked about the claims of 56 per cent betting returns on the company's website, Mr Henderson said: "At the time when it was published these figures were correct but they are variable and at different points they can return different things." (Credit: Gambling911)

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Probe into alleged scams in sports betting industry, by Patrick Lion - The Courier-Mail - 25th June 2009

Queensland's sports betting industry has been rocked by a probe into almost 40 operators allegedly ripping off punters with elaborate scams.

The Courier-Mail can reveal Office of Fair Trading investigators are chasing millions of dollars lost by hundreds of punters through 30 so-called sporting arbitrage companies, mostly from the Gold Coast.

It is understood half of the companies have vanished, after police found only empty land or a post office box as the principal place of business after following up customer complaints.

Sporting arbitrage involves customers being offered "guaranteed" wins by spreading their bets on all possible outcomes with different bookmakers.

But the probe has also embroiled nine software firms, such as Bundall-based Sports Investment Services, which touts sports betting returns of 56 per cent compared with only 6 and 9 per cent on the share and property markets.

About 650 punters have complained since last August after losing on the intricate betting systems or being unable to contact companies once they paid membership fees of between $3000 and $19,000.

Fair Trading Minister Peter Lawlor last night said the high number of complaints showed consumers were rarely pocketing any profits.

"They are simply scams which are designed to take the money of unwitting consumers," Mr Lawlor said. "We also found that once these companies start receiving complaints from their clients, they often simply close down and start up again somewhere else under a new name."

The Office of Fair Trading would not confirm which companies were in the investigation's sights.

The Courier-Mail understands that Suncity Equities and Investments and a firm called Profitrunner were also being investigated.

The money thought to have been lost through the companies, which are often part of a tangled web of other companies, is believed to be between $4 million and $6 million.

The probe, which has also involved the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, does not involve mainstream betting companies such as UNiTAB or Betfair.

Sports Investment Services director Mark Henderson last night said he had had several complaints, but insisted he had done nothing wrong and sold software to help pick winners.

"It gives clients stand-out picks to bet on," he said.

Asked about the claims of 56 per cent betting returns on the company's website, Mr Henderson said: "At the time when it was published these figures were correct but they are variable and at different points they can return different things."

Mr Lawlor said some of the companies styled themselves as investment schemes using "financial instruments" and "risk free" to secure the profits. They also often used telemarketers with false names to entice clients into parting with their money. (Credit: The Courier-Mail)

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Long-range punter just one win from the champions league, by John Schell - The Sydney Morning Herald - 19th June 2009

Superstar status awaits a TAB Sportsbet customer who is one win away from becoming a genius after taking a long-range multi-bet. TAB Sportsbet's Glenn Munsie said the bet, placed back in March, involved Barcelona winning the Champions League, the Los Angeles Lakers taking out the NBA crown, Pittsburgh Penguins winning the NHL and the New York Yankees winning baseball's World Series. So far the first three legs have all saluted, and now the wait is on until October to see if the Yankees take the World Series. For just a $50 outlay the punter stands to collect $114,750.

Meanwhile, one of TAB Sportsbet larger customers has had a winning week by investing heavily on some short-priced favourites.

"They started with $250,000 at $1.06 on Pakistan in the Twenty20 Cricket against Ireland then followed up with $140,000 at $1.08 on Spain against Iraq in the soccer and landed a tidy profit of $26,200," Munsie said.

Bombers away

Alan Eskander's Betstar.com.au hopes Essendon fall victim to Melbourne tonight after a sustained plunge on the Bombers.

"The Bombers have been the biggest go of the split round," Eskander said. "We took a bet of $7500 giving 19½ start, $6000 at -20½ and another $3000 lobbed at -21½. They've been $1.36 in to $1.31 in head-to-head betting while the Dees are friendless, easing from $3.25 to $3.65."

Sydney host Collingwood tomorrow night, with Eskander saying the Swans have been easing favourites, out from $1.88 to $1.94 with the Pies rock solid at $1.90.

"It's no secret that the Pies have the wood on the Swans, and having won their past three matches leading into the split round, it's hard to see them slipping up here," Eskander said.

Support for Blues

Betting on the reduced round of the NRL might be quiet but Sportingbet Australia chief executive Michael Sullivan expects wagering on the second State of Origin next Wednesday night to be fast and furious. "The Blues may have been beaten last year but it was only by two points in Sydney," said Sullivan, who is tipping the support to come for NSW. "They grow an extra leg at home, and the $2.25 to win seems like pretty good odds for a side desperate to tie up the series."

Sullivan said there had been solid early money around for the Maroons at $1.67, including a bet of $10,000, but punters were holding off backing the Blues.

"Punters are still concerned about the Blues' injuries, with Jennings already out and doubts still over a couple of others," he said. "I would expect the money to arrive for the Blues if the others pass their fitness tests."

Australia firm

Australia have firmed in to $1.68 from an opening $1.80 to win the upcoming Ashes series with Centrebet. Spokesman Neil Evans said England, playing at home, had blown from an opening $2.85 out to $3.35. "The biggest bet is $35,000 on the Aussies at $1.80 but the money is still coming in from both here and the UK for them to win the series," Evans said. "But the same confidence isn't there yet for Australia to win the first Test in Cardiff. They are quoted at $2.15 with the Poms at $3.60 and the draw at $2.95."

Plunge for Nadal

Rafael Nadal may still be under an injury cloud for Wimbledon but that hasn't stopped a fan plunging on him to win the tournament. Munsie said the TAB Sportsbet punter had wagered $30,000 on the Spaniard at $6.50.

Meanwhile, Sullivan said Sportingbet Australia punters were keen on Roger Federer, while Australian Samantha Stosur has shortened in the women's market.

Tiger domination

Tiger Woods, at $3, dominates betting on the US Open and commands a remarkable 30 per cent of money invested with TAB Sportsbet in the winner market. Munsie said US Masters winner Angel Cabrera was well backed at big odds with bets of $1400 and $1000 at $51. (Credit: Fairfax)

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Live Friday night matches focus of next TV contract, by Patrick Smith - The Australian - 29th May 2009

The present AFL broadcast rights might not officially end until the 2011 season is done and dusted so no one is quite throwing punches just yet.

But the broadcasters and the AFL are beginning to dance about the ring. A little posturing, a feint here and there.

But what is a fundamental principle agreed to by all parties is a need for the deal post 2011 to deliver most matches live. AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou confirmed yesterday that the league's infatuation with protecting attendances by limiting live-against-the-gate broadcasts had all but run out of passion.

"There is common ground between the AFL and the potential broadcasters that the next agreement should feature wherever possible live telecasts," Demetriou said. And while the league boss would not talk specific slots, it is clear the contentious Friday night coverage will be one fixture under heavy focus.

The long delay imposed by Channel Seven in this contract has infuriated viewers from Brisbane to Perth. As an example of the poor service delivered by the broadcaster, tonight's match between Carlton and West Coast is not shown live on free-to-air television.

In Melbourne the telecast is delayed by one hour, one and half hours in Adelaide, Perth gets the match on a three-hour wait and, in Sydney, it comes on just before midnight. The AFL broadcast schedule says it goes live on pay-TV network Fox Sports only in NSW and Queensland. Channel Seven does not show it in Brisbane until 11.30pm.

A Melbourne talkback radio station asked yesterday for people's feedback on the league's existing broadcast schedule and most complained about the delayed programming on Friday night as well as Sunday afternoon. "We will need to protect some soft slots," Demetriou said. "But everyone is agreed that live sport works best and there is a commitment from everyone to see that it happens. I am not sure anymore about the value of protecting live-against-the-gate games. I think live broadcasts actually helps bring people to the game." That is a significant and welcome change in league philosophy.

All interested parties have been told that the next agreement will deal with eight matches per round. Only when the 18th licence is granted to a west Sydney consortium will the rights to a ninth match be open to negotiation. The AFL has said a Gold Coast team would join the competition in 2011 and a team based in western Sydney one year later. That would mean an 18-team, nine-match fixture from the first year of the new broadcast contract.

The AFL's reluctance not to broaden discussions to an 18-team competition is in contrast to its confident rhetoric that the western Sydney team is on schedule to make its debut in 2012. "Broadcasters might ask for provision for a ninth match, that's possible, but until we grant a licence it is not proper to negotiate beyond eight matches." That also allows wriggle room if the Gold Coast debut is delayed.

While the AFL broadcast deal has always been controversial because of its failure to deliver live football to all the game's markets, the league yesterday could gloat on news that the total of positive drug tests in 2008 had fallen dramatically. For the first time positive tests fell below 1 per cent. There were 12 positives in 1220 tests, the lowest and therefore best result for the AFL since it began its drug monitoring in 2005.

The AFL has been criticised and ridiculed - this column at the head of the queue - for its drug protocols which allow a player to test positive to illicit drugs three times before the league applies a meaningful penalty. Yesterday's announcement is undeniable statistical evidence that the league policy is reducing drug use. Twelve positives - two players were caught out twice last year - are 12 too many but the figures suggest that drug use among players is considerably less than in the wider community. That's a significant reward for weathering the criticism the AFL commission sustained on the introduction of its three-strike policy.

There are other social issues with which to deal. The media has been fuelled by rumour that a prominent footballer is in deep debt because of a gambling addiction. His club denies it point blank. But some commentators suggest it is just the tip of evidence that gambling might be the most significant problem for players away from the field.

This week the betting exchange Betfair spoke with the AFL Players Association chief executive Brendon Gale about wagering and gambling issues. Further talks are planned. It is believed the betting exchange impressed Gale with its promotion of a betting and deposit limit available to customers.

The exchange is one of eight betting outlets - TAB Sportsbet, Luxbet, Betezy, Sports Acumen, IAS Bet, Sportingbet and Racing Odds are the others - that has a partnership with the league which includes a product fee and an information-sharing contract. Betting agencies are provided with the names of all AFL players and their accounts are monitored to check if they punt on AFL games.

Live telecasts will prove a boon for supporters who like to bet during play. Betfair reported that a third of its betting on the Anzac Day Essendon-Collingwood match took place in the last five minutes of the game and that with two minutes to go Essendon was quoted as a 100-1 chance. At that moment Collingwood led by more than two goals. With just seconds remaining Essendon teenager David Zaharakis snapped a goal to pinch the game by five points.

Ummm. Would you take a cheque? (Credit: The Australian)

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Monday, June 15, 2009

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Key clients, by Michael Evans - The Sydney Morning Herald - 10th June 2009

David Coe won't be short of a nice venue or some toys to share around as the one-time Allco banana works the contact book to get reaccepted into the chairman's club at the pointy end of town. We pointed out yesterday that Coe would be suckling the taxpayer teat as the V8 Supercars roar around the lively Homebush Bay Olympic site later this year.

But consider some of the other assets Sports & Entertainment Ltd manages.

For starters there is the lucrative merchandising contract with Cricket Australia. Coe's mob also manages all aspects of the Australian Rugby Union's licensing program. Coe's lot even runs the retail operations of the Sydney Opera House.

Which got us thinking: given Coe's connections to the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Opera House and the Allco offices towering over the Cahill Expressway, at one point Coe controlled all sides of Circular Quay.

And if he needs to do some schmoozing out of the limelight, Coe can always take the troops down to the Southern Highlands.

After all, SEL owns and runs Mount Broughton Golf and Country Club.

Nothing like doing a few rough years in the doghouse. (Credit: The Sydney Morning Herald)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Record amount wagered on Origin I delivers black night for bookies

TAB Sportsbet media manager Glenn Munsie said the agency had held a record figure of $5,091,000 in bets on State of Origin I. "The interest was enormous," Munsie said. "The hold was up 27.4 per cent on game one in 2008. There were 194,000 individual bets placed on the various options, which was up 22 per cent on game one in 2008.

"We lost on the game, with the biggest swing coming as a result of Queensland scoring that last-minute try. It meant that, in the tri-bet market, with the options of Queensland winning by over 6½, NSW winning by over 6½ or either team winning by under 6½, we lost heavily.

"We would have preferred Jarryd Hayne [to have] been awarded that early try for NSW, which would have made him the game's first try scorer. Billy Slater scoring the first try was a much worse result for us than Hayne."

The most experienced figure in sports betting management in Australia, Gerard Daffy, described it as the blackest night in Origin history for bookmakers.

Daffy, now the sports betting manager for SportsAlive.com and formerly with Centrebet for more than a decade, said the last-minute Maroons try was a huge joy for punters betting with his agency as well. "We got hammered by that on the tri-bet," Daffy said. "But we got hammered across the board."

Sportingbet Australia CEO Michael Sullivan said bets on Queensland outnumbered those on the Blues by six to one. The rush for the Maroons was also on at Centrebet, where Neil Evans said Queensland were backed from $1.53 into $1.44 to win.

"There was a late rush that saw one punter unload $35,000 at $1.45 and another invest $30,000 at $1.48," Evans said. "The Maroons also tumbled in from an opening $1.60 to win the series a couple of months back to $1.45 by the time game one kicked off."

Support for Knights

Neil Evans said Newcastle had been the best-backed team with Centrebet in this weekend's NRL round, firming from $1.30 in to $1.28. The Eels have eased to $3.75 and are likely to get out further.

Betstar's Alan Eskander said the agency had increased the points start Melbourne were giving in tonight's game against Brisbane from a flat four to 4½ now that Broncos centre Justin Hodges is out with a knee injury suffered in the Origin game.

AFL punting paradise

Betstar's Alan Eskander reckons it could be another disastrous week for bookmakers betting on the AFL. "With five of the eight favourites under $1.25, it looks to be multi heaven for AFL punters," he said. "The past month has been terrible but we're not about to run and hide."

Eskander said Port Adelaide had been the best-backed team of the weekend with Betstar. "They are $1.24 in to $1.19 while Fremantle is friendless, going from $4.25 to $5," he said.

"One punter had $2000 on Port at -26½ and another $3000 on at -27½. The line is now -29½, but with injuries to take into account, the line may jump to -34½."

Essendon, at $1.88, are slight favourites against Adelaide, $1.95, for Sunday's game at Etihad Stadium. Hawthorn have eased from $1.40 to $1.44 against the Swans, who have firmed to $2.85. "The Swans were very good in their second-half last week and are Hawthorn's bogy side, winning four of the last five clashes between these two," Eskander said.

Proteas for cricket cup

South Africa have been backed in from $7 to $4.50 with Sportingbet Australia to win the ICC Twenty20 World Cup. Sportingbet's chief, Michael Sullivan, said the Proteas were second favourites behind India.

"South Africa has been steadily supported since we opened this market back in December," he said. "There's no doubt they are shaping as our worst result."

Sullivan reported little interest in Australia.

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