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Opinion on Ministerial Notification

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Background and key findings

Background

In Parliament on 12 February 2019, the Hon Dr Mike Nahan MLA, asked the Minister for Racing and Gaming for information about the WA TAB in the Legislative Assembly Question on Notice 4492. Parts (b), (e) and (f) requested the following information:

(b) What was the total number of bets taken each year at TAB outlets for the period 2005 to 2018 (to 30 June 2018)

(e) What was the total number and total value of bets placed with the TAB via the internet, either through www.ozbet.com.au or the TABTouch App, each year for the period 2005 to 2018

(f) What was the average gross profit for TAB outlets from gambling at TAB outlets each year for the period 2005 to 2018.

On 19 March 2019, the Minister declined to give answers for parts (b), (e) and (f) replying:

(b) The information requested is not currently publicly available and could compromise the TAB’s competitive position if released. This is particularly pertinent given that, as the Member is aware, the McGowan Government is currently progressing the sale of the TAB. Therefore, I will not be providing this information.

(e-f) See answer to (b).

The full transcript of the question asked in Parliament and the Minister’s response is in Appendix 1.

On 1 April 2019, the Auditor General received the Minister’s notification of the decision not to provide the requested information, in accordance with section 82 of the FM Act.

Key findings

The decision by the Minister not to provide the information requested in parts (b), (e) and (f) was reasonable and therefore appropriate.

The Minister properly sought advice from the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries (the Department) before responding to the request. The Department in turn sought advice from Racing and Wagering Western Australia (RWWA), which is responsible for the WA TAB, before advising the Minister.

The Department recommended the Minister not provide the commercially sensitive information as it could pose a significant risk to the WA TAB sale process, which is underway.

We assessed the information using our criteria for commercial sensitivity. Specifically:

Criterion 1 – Is the information sufficiently secret? Is it significant?

This criterion was met. The information was not generally known nor easily ascertainable at the time the Minister declined to provide it. In particular:

  • the total number of bets taken each year at TAB outlets for the period 2005 to 2018 is not reported in RWWA’s annual reports nor easily ascertainable from other publicly available information. RWWA’s annual reports provide the total number of bets but it is not broken down by channels (e.g. retail outlets, phone, internet)
  • the total number and total value of bets placed with the TAB via the internet each year for the period 2005 to 2018 is not reported in RWWA’s annual reports nor easily ascertainable from other publicly available information. Racing Australia’s Fact Books include fixed odds betting figures but this information is not broken down by channels  
  • the average gross profit for TAB outlets each year for the period 2005 to 2018 is not reported in RWWA’s annual reports nor easily ascertainable from other publicly available information. While RWWA’s annual reports provide gross and operating profit figures this information is not broken down by channels. 

Criterion 2 – Is it in the public interest for the information to remain confidential?

This criterion was met. We assessed the potential benefits and detriments of disclosure and in our view protecting the State’s commercial interest on balance outweighs the public interest in providing the information. RWWA operates the WA TAB in a highly competitive and commercial environment. Consistent with our findings from a previous section 82 inquiry, disaggregated wagering information has commercial value and its disclosure could diminish the WA TAB’s profitability by revealing market share information to competitors[1]. A weakened competitive position could have a detrimental financial outcome for the proposed sale of the WA TAB.

[1]  See Office of the Auditor General report 26 tabled on 14 December 2017

 
Page last updated: July 26, 2019

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