Tabcorp mulling legal action against Ladbrokes, Neds over NSW pubs gambling deal

Australian gambling giant Tabcorp has threatened legal action against competitor Ladbrokes and Neds as it seeks to tear up a partnership that jeopardizes its lucrative monopoly in New South Wales pubs and raises the prospect of more betting ads inside venues. Tabcorp, which has an exclusive deal with the NSW government to operate retail wagering inside pubs and hotels, believes the partnership may breach its license.

On Wednesday, NSW supreme court justice James Stevenson ordered the company to be provided with legal advice and details on how the partnership would work in practice, which would inform any legal action to stop it, reports The Guardian. This includes details on proposed “VIP Ladbrokes activation zones” or “Neds Club lounges” inside pubs. 

Tabcorp successfully argued there was not enough publicly available information to confirm its suspicion the partnership would violate its license deal. The company assured it will review the documents disclosed in order to assess whether or not to commence legal proceedings against Entain or Australian Hotels Association (AHA) NSW, or both, in the supreme court.

The supreme court judgment reveals the AHA wrote to Tabcorp in October to stress it was “committed to supporting Tabcorp’s exclusive and long-term retail wagering license in NSW hotels.”

“It also remains our position that none of the arrangements as announced by AHA NSW and Entain do anything to undermine Tabcorp’s retail exclusivity, nor are they in contravention of any laws, including the Unlawful Gambling Act,” the letter said.

The dispute highlights the increasingly competitive sports gambling industry in Australia with companies battling for a larger share of the multibillion-dollar market. Tabcorp is now prioritizing online wagering in direct competition with Ladbrokes and Neds. 

Back in October, Entain Australia announced a “groundbreaking new agreement” with AHA to increase gambling competition inside the state’s pubs. The deal would allow Entain to promote its Ladbrokes and Neds brands and create designated zones for customers.

When the partnership was announced, the AHA NSW chief executive, John Whelan, said many hotels were operating Tabcorp facilities at “significant losses” and that change was necessary. 

Dean Shannon.

Entain Australia’s chief executive, Dean Shannon, said the partnership would allow it to “connect and communicate” with a valuable audience inside pubs.

There is no reason why traditional cash wagering can’t coexist in a hotel, alongside an advertising sponsorship arrangement with Entain that promotes the digital offering of one of our leading brands,” Shannon said in October.

A spokesperson for Entain acknowledged the supreme court judgment granting preliminary discovery of documents on three of eight requested categories. “Entain is building great momentum in the rollout of its digital wagering sponsorships and is pleased with the high levels of interest from pubs across NSW,” the person said.