ABC Australia: How online sports betting companies exert pressure on government to pay less tax

Sports betting companies threatened to abandon the Northern Territory, their traditional home in Australia, if taxes were increased in explosive submissions to government obtained by the ABC under Freedom of Information law.

The threats were made by at least three industry members as part of consultation for a review of the Territory’s Racing and Betting Act in 2020.

The documents were not published and have only come to light after a Freedom of Information application by the ABC and appeal of an initial decision.

The majority of Australian online sports betting companies are registered in the NT, making the Northern Territory the primary regulator of the industry in the country.

The Territory benefits by having call centre, IT and other sports betting staff located in Darwin, increasing the number of local jobs and providing a boost to the NT economy.

Licensing NT ultimately released the documents, but only after redacting the names of the companies that made submissions.

The companies were responding to an independent review into the Racing and Betting Act by law firm HWL Ebsworth in 2018 that, among other things, suggested 20 per cent of labour costs of sports betting companies should be spent in the NT.

Otherwise, a company would pay an “economic contribution levy” equal to three times the dollar amount of the local labour deficiency.

One entity raised the prospects of companies going under.

Another described a suggestion that companies require 20 per cent of staff costs to be based in the Northern Territory as “not justified” and “likely to encourage licensees to look to move away from the NT resulting in the loss of industry and jobs”.

A third warned if costs were increased, “we believe it likely operators may choose to exit the jurisdiction or cease trading altogether”.

Responsible Wagering Australia, the industry body representing much of the industry, declined to identify which was its submission, but flagged it expected another round of consultation before there is reform.

Northern Territory Minister for Racing, Gaming and Licensing Natasha Fyles said work is continuing.

“This is a complex piece of legislation and it’s important that amendments reflect the changes in the industry over the last few decades, particularly with the move to online platforms,” she said.