- »Lottoland Defeats ACMA in Court to Survive
Lottoland Defeats ACMA in Court to Survive
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has long wanted to outlaw Lottoland’s jackpot betting service, but Lottoland sued for its right to exist. And the outcome of the case in the New South Wales Supreme Court gives Lottoland that right.
The Curious Case of Jackpot Betting
In January 2019, the Australian government enacted a law that made it illegal for Aussies to bet on international lotteries. That had been Lottoland’s primary source of business until that time.
To rebound from that defeat, Lottoland began relying on jackpot betting.
Aussies were able to choose numbers in a lottery-type arrangement in which the winning numbers were extracted from financial markets. Lottoland took numbers from the opening of the New York Stock Exchange, for example, and used its computer program to mix those numbers into a singular, long winning number. Lottoland ticket holders could match numbers to win.
That chosen method ensured that the numbers could not be predicted by Lottoland or manipulated in any way. Rather, the financial numbers were guaranteed to be fair and would stand up to any audit.
The difference between jackpot betting and a typical lottery is that the numbers simply come from a financial index instead of a random number generator or traditional ball machine.
Frustrated, the ACMA went after Lottoland. In June 2019, the governmental body ruled that Lottoland’s jackpot betting was a game of chance, one that was most certainly illegal under the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001.
Lottoland fought that decision.
Let the Courts Decide
After the ACMA ruled Lottoland’s activities illegal, Lottoland filed legal papers in the New South Wales Supreme Court to challenge that ruling.
Luke Brill of Lottoland Australia noted then, “We have worked hard to adapt to recent changes to the law, and we are committed to providing exciting new products that our customers love. By taking this stand against ACMA, we are fighting for the rights of hundreds of thousands of Australians who enjoy the occasional flutter. We are fighting for freedom of choice.”
According to Lottoland, approximately 750,000 Aussie customers participate in jackpot betting.
Win for Lottoland
The NSW Supreme Court did, in fact, rule this month for Lottoland.
In the final ruling, Justice John Sackar wrote that the Interactive Gambling Act, as written, was somewhat ambiguous because of the distinctions between betting on the outcome of an event versus that of a game. But Sackar decided that Lottoland is legal because its betting is reliant on the outcome of an event and not a game.
Sackar also noted that jackpot betting, as offered by Lottoland, consisted of no “traditional elements of games,” such as competition, amusement, or entertainment. In that way, customers have very little participation in the process outside of picking random numbers before the event.
Justice Sackar used roulette as a comparison, noting that it is a game because it involves players choosing a number or color that might be luck for them. In addition, roulette players compete against the casino and, in a sense, other players. This gives it a “level of interaction” essential to being designated as a game rather than an event.
The judge wrote, “A game must, in my view, be more than the simple process by which a person parts with his/her money with a chance of finance return.”
Lottoland’s Brill was satisfied with the outcome of the case. “With the matter now settled,” he said, “Lottoland Australia can finally get on with what it does best – providing new and exciting products that Australian punters love.”
State Lotteries without Recourse?
The court ruling leaves state-regulated lotteries with a decision that requires them to compete with Lottoland for business, as it has done for years.
The ACMA was fighting for Tabcorp, the tightly-regulated lotteries operator that has long complained about Lottoland. Tabcorp’s subsidiary, Tatts, offers Lotto and numerous other options for lotto bettors.
While Tabcorp runs through the traditional channels and through retailers, Lottoland operates online and provides competition.
Some Aussies feel more comfortable with Tabcorp because of the licensing and government approval of the games. In addition, many do not understand jackpot betting. However, Lottoland continues to serve hundreds of thousands of Australians due to its convenience and trust earned through many years of experience in the lottery world.
Back to the Drawing Board
It is unclear if the ACMA has any further moves in its chess game versus Lottoland.
The ACMA case against Lottoland was based on an investigation that found all of Lottoland’s offerings, with the sole exception of the Daily Millions, breached Australian laws. That meant the daily jackpots, US Millions, US Power, and jackpot betting were games of chance.
However, with the court ruling stating otherwise, ACMA may have to accept the judgment. Other supporters of the ACMA lawsuit, such as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), will have to accept the ruling as well.