Tuesday 13 October 2009

Hansard of the Legislative Council


Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - My question is to the Treasurer and it is about Betfair and the threat of the betting exchange leaving the State.  About four years ago, or it might be three-and-a-half, some members of this House agonised over whether to be the Tasmanian springboard for this Internet betting exchange to come into Australia.  We were persuaded by the Government then on the argument of the economic benefits to Tasmania.  Does the Treasurer believe that we have received those expected benefits?  Can he give some indication of the economic result of its leaving as soon as it is able and an indication of the projected benefits of Betfair staying in Tasmania if the negotiations reach a satisfactory outcome?

Mr AIRD - I thank the honourable member for his question.  There have been discussions between Betfair and the Government for about the past nine months in relation to establishing a new deed with Betfair.

Mr Finch - Before the five years is up?

Mr AIRD - That could be factored in.  A deed can be changed by agreement and what I want to do is put Betfair as a long-term sustainable business in Tasmania.  I believe the discussions that have been undertaken between the Government and Betfair have been positive up until now and in fact if you look at the comments made by Andrew Thwaites you will see that he has indicated that he wants Betfair to stay in Tasmania, but you would expect any CEO of any organisation to explore other options, to look after the corporate interests of that company.  I understand that. 

I understand that Betfair have some issues relating to taxation in the State.  That is not a surprise and I have said that we are prepared to deal with that issue.  I have indicated publicly, Madam President, that I am optimistic about Betfair staying in Tasmania.  They have proven to be a success in the wagering industry.  They have proven to be good corporate citizens.  We now have 105 people being employed by Betfair in Tasmania. 

As honourable members would be aware, in relation to the dividends coming to this State Betfair, for the first two-and-a-half years of their operation, were really hamstrung by their inability to advertise and compete on the national stage but those issues have been resolved now by decisions made by the courts.  I believe that their business model is going to stack up into the future.  People always jump at shadows related to issues about wagering - like today, the issue about corporate bookmakers moving to Tasmania.  Well, corporate bookmakers work in other parts of Australia now.  As long as it is a properly regulated product and wagering is in Tasmania, we have a very strong reputation as a regulator in terms of gaming, I can see nothing wrong in trying to encourage businesses to locate in Tasmania.  It is the same argument that happened with Betfair; it was the same argument with the casino.  People jump at shadows but in the end, once these businesses are shown to be viable and the concerns can be dealt with, then we can get on with the economic benefits of having these organisations based in Tasmania  under a very strong regulatory regime, providing employment and providing revenue back to the State.

I think we have the advantage of being able to anticipate the developments in the market in wagering.  I believe Betfair will want to stay here and I am hopeful that corporate bookmakers will operate here as well.