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Betting company sparks anger by ‘cashing in’ on Australia same-sex marriage vote

Nick Duffy September 27, 2017
Protests in Australia

Protests in Australia (SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

A bookmaker has insisted it is not distasteful to let people bet on whether Australia will continue to ban gay people from getting married.

Australia is currently holding a public vote on whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, at the behest of the country’s right-wing Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Though the Yes camp held a lead going into the vote, polling shows that the race has narrowed significantly, as anti-LGBT activists reap the rewards of a US-style scaremongering campaign and well-funded advertising blitz.

As ‘No’ picks up steam, there is growing distress among the LGBT community over fears they will be denied equality, while the vote has also led to a surge in homophobic hate incidents.

But one betting company in the country is trying to cash in by offering people the chance to bet on the result.

Sportsbet is operating a betting market on the result – currently offers odds of 1.35 for a ‘Yes’ vote and 3.0 for a ‘No’, favouring a ‘Yes’ victory.

Voters are also available on the turnout for the vote and the percentage that will be received by each side.

The site is even using sponsored ads to target people online and advertise the chance to bet on the outcome.

But LGBT activists have accused the betting company of insensitivity by letting people gamble on human rights.

Alex Greenwich MP, the head of Australian Marriage Equality and: “To vote on the validity of some Australians’ relationships is bad enough, but to bet on them is a whole new low.”

“I think Sportsbet, to be making money on this process, is deeply concerning.”

But the betting company insists it has done nothing wrong.

In a statement to ABC it said: “It’s just a market — anyone can vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and more people are willing to put their money on ‘yes’ so I guess people are sympathising really.

“In many ways it’s a poll to see what punters are saying, and markets like these are not renowned for big bets.

“There are more bets on the No vote individually, but we’ve taken about 40 per cent more money on the Yes side.”

The company claimed: “We haven’t had people letting us know it’s been a problem now or in the past five years.

“I think the postal vote is distressing people, not the market, because this has been here for five years.”

However, the company has received repeated criticism in the past.

LGBT website OutInPerth previously published an editorial calling out the company.

In 2016, OutInPerth’s Graeme Watson wrote: “I thought spending in excess of $160 million dollars and asking the whole country if gay people should have equal rights was offensive – advertising the chance to entertain yourself with a bet on the outcome – are you serious?

“I’m not opposed to gambling, far from it, I’ve spent a third of my working life in the gaming industry.

“It’s where I met my partner 16 and half years ago – which is about the same amount of time I’ve been waiting for marriage equality.”

The same company offered a betting market on Caitlyn Jenner’s chosen name after she came out as trans.

Related: Australian Archbishop compares same-sex marriage to incest

More: Australia, Australia, equal marriage, Gay, LGBT, marriage, same sex marriage

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