Federal Police Clears William Hill’s “Click-to-Call” Betting Service for Now

Last Wednesday, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) sent a missive to William Hill Australia, officially declaring that the police force will not carry out investigations related to complaints against the “Click-to-Call” in-play betting service offered by the William Hill AU website. The statement conveyed that the decision not to proceed with the investigation came after the AFP evaluated the complaints referred by the Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA) based on the institution's prioritization and categorization standards.

ACMA confirmed that the AFP's “Click-to-Call” investigation has been halted for now, but was quick to point out that they will still refer to the AFP, any fresh complaints they will receive regarding the controversial in-play betting service offered by betting companies. The communications regulator stated that regardless of the AFP's decision, the potentially unlawful betting service remains a concern that requires referral to the AFP in the event that new complaints are brought forward to the ACMA office.

Apparently, the AFP handed back to the communications regulator the task of looking into the legality of the in-play betting service introduced by William Hill sometime in April of this year. The system allows Australian punters to facilitate the processing of web-activated in-play bets, whilst connected to a live phone betting system. The live call betting system completes betting transactions after receiving system-recorded verbal confirmation related to the in=play betting selection. The system is largely built on advanced methodology of transmitting voice communication over Internet Protocol (IP), popularly known as Voice over IP or VoIP.

Tom Waterhouse, the CEO of William Hill Australia received gladly the AFP's decision. Mr. Waterhouse asserts it will benefit Australian punters, as they will not be constrained to place in-play bets through offshore-based online bookmakers. He contends that acts of doing so pose as a great threat to the integrity of Australian sport and to consumer protection as well.

Amidst complaints raised by local betting businesses as a system that runs against the grain of Australia's prohibition against online betting, William Hill continued to offer its Click-to Call service. The Australia-based betting offices of close UK rivals Ladbrokes and Bet365 followed suit, by introducing their own brand of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone betting service. Ladbrokes offers Quickbet, while Bet365 call its BetCall. However, the AFP referred complaints against the QuickBet and BetCall systems to Interpol, after determining that the URL for their respective VoIP betting service was not locally hosted.

As the uproar against the in play betting service heightened and impending threats of investigation by police authorities loomed, Ladbrokes withdrew its Quickbet product in July. Only William Hill and Bet365 stood pat on the ground that the system is legal, asserting that their new in-play betting service is merely an extension of the telephone betting method allowed by Australia's Internet Gambling Act 2001.

The AFP's decision not to pursue the investigation emphasized the polemic framework of the country's Internet Gambling Act 2001, deemed by the majority as no longer applicable due to the changes brought around by technological advancements. In related developments, former New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell has been tasked to review the Act, including the new forms of in-play betting products and services, and is expected to submit final recommendations to Social Services Minister Charles Porter on December 18, 2015.