Last week it was announced that gambling ministers had reached an agreement which will, among other things, prohibit bookmakers from using sign-up bonuses to attract new customers. The goal of this agreement is to reduce the growing number of problem gamblers in Australia, but it will also have a direct effect on Matched Betting. The question is…how much?

The Agreement

This agreement has been a long time coming, and isn’t much of a surprise to anyone.

Australians gamble more per capita than any other nation on Earth, and for an increasing number it is becoming a problem. A recent report showed that nearly 200,000 Australians are problem gamblers, with many more at risk. So, it was inevitable that the government would step-in to do something.

Consultations have been ongoing for over a year now, and the government has met with a range of stakeholders. The most notable stakeholder is, of course, the gambling industry. The industry group Responsible Wagering Australia have been working closely with the government to design the new regulations.

In addition to the ban on sign-up ‘inducements’, the agreement will also lead to a national self-exclusion register and a ban on credit betting. The measures will be phased in throughout 2018, with the removal of sign-up bonuses expected for June.

Effect on Matched Betting

Matched betting, in it’s simplest form, is a process of extracting risk-free profit from bookmaker sign-up bonuses. Without the bonuses this will cease to be possible. Matched bettors will be deprived of the more than $5000 of bonuses that are available at the moment.

However, matched betting also goes beyond the sign-up bonus. Most of our members at Bonusbank will exhaust the sign-up offers after a couple of months, but existing customer promos will keep them earning for much longer. The agreement makes no mention of these types of offers.

Given how profitable the Australian gambling sector is, it is highly unlikely that bookies will simply stop competing for customers. It is therefore possible that we will see an increase in the number of offers available to existing customers.

In the short-term we may also see more generous sign-up bonuses. Bookies will try to get as many new sign-ups as possible before the June deadline.

The Winners

The goal of this new regulation is to reduce problem gambling, and i believe that the new self-exclusion register and the ban on credit betting will have positive results. Removing sign-up bonuses will probably also help reduce the number of problem gamblers, but the real winners from this decision are the bookies.

By working closely with the government, RWA has managed to negotiate a deal that makes the gambling industry look socially responsible. At the same time, they have also saved themselves huge amounts of money.

No bookie would ever have unilaterally removed their sign-up bonus. It would have put them at a competitive disadvantage. However, with all sign-up bonuses removed, the playing field remains level while the marketing spend is severely reduced. This is win-win for the bookies, but a major loss for responsible gamblers.

As for the future of matched betting in Australia, the removal of sign-up bonuses will be a huge negative but it will not kill matched betting completely. As long as bookies have promotions there will be ways to extract value from them.

And, in the short-term, we could be in for a matched betting bonanza. Over the next nine months bookies will go into overdrive trying to win new customers. There has probably never been a better time to start matched betting in Australia.

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