For a social media minute, Peta Murphy, Member for Dunkley and chair of the federal government inquiry into online gambling, became an unlikely hero of punters across Australia when she eviscerated Sportsbet CEO Barni Evans at a public hearing.

Evans, like most CEOs, is used to being the smartest person in the room but got a salutary lesson in humility when trying to evade Murphy’s questions of whether Australia’s biggest bookmaker bans winning punters.

Murphy: “I don’t understand why it’s difficult to say yes or no to this question.”

Evans: “I’ve given you the same answer three times.”

Murphy: “I’m taking what you are saying as a yes, because of the way you are answering me and not engaging with my question, yes, you stop people who are consistently winning from betting.”

Evans: “That’s your prerogative, I’ve answered the question two or three times.”

Evans’ behaviour fitted every stereotype of a shifty bookie and by the end of his long testimony, even he became aware he had got himself into a fight he couldn’t win. He apologised for what may have come across as a defensive demeanour but left Murphy room for one final quip.

“And sometimes I can come across like a barrister. We can’t help who we are,” she said.

It was a knockout victory for Murphy, who also scored easy points victories over representatives from Entain and the bookmaker-funded lobby group Responsible Wagering Australia (RWA), and whose committee is determining the future regulation of online gambling in Australia.

It was great theatre, and a satisfying moment for those of us who feel the corporate bookmaking sector needs to be taken down a peg or two, but while it got the punters excited, it was far from the most significant takeout from the two days of public hearings.

There were five major takeaways for the Australian wagering industry from the inquiry’s hearing:


1. The federal government has lost faith in the corporate bookmaking industry’s ability to self-regulate

It was a good day for those who believe the sunlight of public scrutiny is the best disinfectant when it comes to the pernicious actions of the corporate wagering sector, but it was about much more than the rights of winning punters. Regulation, the most influential force in the wagering landscape, is coming, and the bookies are unlikely to be happy with the recommendations which will be made to Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth.

At the heart of it, it is an investigation into a corporate bookmaking culture which was best summed up by Murphy.

“It’s not the greatest look for companies to stop people winning, yet not stop people losing,” she said.

The federal government has clearly lost faith in the corporate bookmaking industry’s ability to self-regulate and the ability of the 26 separate regulators involved with the betting industry to facilitate change.

2. Affordability checks are seen as a legitimate means of harm minimisation

One of the key reasons for getting the representatives of the betting industry before the committee was to explain their various responsible wagering measures. They have all taken steps to minimise harm, but they were less than convincing as to exactly how effective they have been.

It is clear through the language used by both the Chair, Murphy, and others on the committee that this specifically means there is consideration being made to mandatory deposit limits and affordability checks, the same measures which have caused such a stir in the United Kingdom.