After last week saw its planned $4.4 billion deal to purchase local lottery operator Tatts Group jeopardized following the emergence of a rival bid, Australian sportsbetting operator Tabcorp Holdings Limited has now reportedly been found guilty of illegally luring punters to open new accounts.

According to a report from broadcaster Sky News Australia, Friday saw Tabcorp Holdings Limited found guilty in Sydney‘s Downing Centre Local Court on three counts relating to an August of 2015 promotion published in a newspaper and online that offered bonus bets and other rewards as inducements.

Sky News Australia reported that it is illegal for bookmakers to publish advertisements that tempt residents of New South Wales with incentives to gamble or open betting accounts with the case following other such prosecutions that involved the likes of Ladbrokes, Unibet, Bet365 and ClassicBet. Melbourne-based Tabcorp Holdings Limited had denied the offences and the matter has now been adjourned for sentencing until February.

Tabcorp Holdings Limited has recently seen its once dominant position in the $14 billion-plus Australian sportsbetting market come under attack from foreign operators including William Hill and Sportsbet and reportedly told Sky News Australia that its rivals may also have pushed the boundaries.

“I think it’s been a very competitive market and in competitive markets boundaries can be stretched,” David Attenborough, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer for Tabcorp Holdings Limited, told Sky News Australia. “I think it’s good to see the government actually providing clarity on where those boundaries will be set going forward and what is important in competitive markets is you need to have clear boundaries so all players can operate within those boundaries.”

Sky News Australia moreover reported that foreign bookmakers have long been lobbying Canberra to relax its ban on in-play online sportsbetting amid claims that punters are already widely using the service through illicit overseas operators. Major sports codes such as Cricket Australia and the Australian Football League have additionally been barracking for the live feature but the government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is maintaining its prohibition, citing figures which allegedly show that rates of problem gambling increase three-fold when wagering is conducted online.

“The government does not intend to further expand the online betting market in Australia by legalizing online in-play betting,” Alan Tudge, Human Services Minister for Australia, told Sky News Australia. “We think there are enough problems with gambling already before giving people the ability to bet on every moment of every sport across Australia from your living room.”

In related news, a newly formed industry body supported by Betfair, Bet365, CrownBet, Sportsbet and Unibet has reportedly announced that it intends to support moves that would see New South Wales’ ban on inducements rolled out across Australia.

According to a report from The Courier-Mail newspaper, Responsible Wagering Australia, which is headed by former government minister Stephen Conroy, intends to put its weight behind national and stronger regulations on inducement advertising.

“A national ban is in the long-term interests of consumers, operators and regulators and would further strengthen harm-minimization efforts in the sector,” Conroy told the Brisbane-based newspaper. “A ban that applies right across Australia is the only way to ensure that an appropriate level of consumer protection is offered regardless of where an individual lives.”

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