Warning on shares gamble

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    Warning on shares gamble
    By GERARD McMANUS
    04aug02

    PUNTERS are being encouraged to gamble on the share market through a high-risk spread betting system in which players can lose many times their original stake.

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    The new form of share market gambling has appeal because winnings are tax-free.
    Anti-gambling groups warn the volatile nature of spread betting could cost dearly and say it is not regulated like other forms of gambling.

    The tax-free share market betting has been made possible by Federal Government changes to securities laws.

    The new gambling system is known as "spread betting" and is normally associated with sports betting, especially cricket in the UK and India.

    The first operator in Australia, IG Index, has a 24-hour betting shop on St Kilda Rd.

    Spread betting allows people to take a bet on whether a share price is going to go up or down for a fraction of the cost of buying ordinary shares.

    However, it can be extremely volatile, with possible losses of thousands of dollars from small wagers.

    IG Index managing director Mathew Wilson said share betting was "a new way of backing your judgment in financial markets".

    "The transaction is structured as a bet and classed as gambling, so it is not subject to any tax on your winnings," he said.

    "Because we have a licence under the Financial Services Act, we are not required to have a bookmakers' licence."

    Victoria's Inter-Church Gambling Taskforce described the arrival of share betting as "very worrying".

    "It is not even like speculating on shares, it is clearly betting and nothing whatsoever to do with wealth creation, which is always the argument put forward by those who support the stock market," taskforce spokesman the Rev Tim Costello said yesterday. "It is outrageous that it is not subject to a regulatory gambling body.'

    IG Index has successfully run similar systems in Britain since 1995.

    The UK-listed company's Melbourne operation has about 200 leading Australian stocks on its books.

    People can place bets 24 hours a day. Minimum bets are for $5 for every 1 cent movement in a share price, and deposits are required.

    Punters can also bet on 15,000 stocks on share markets across the world, from gold, oil, cocoa and sugar to pork bellies and greasy wool.

    In spread betting you nominate the price you expect a share to be at some time in the future in either days, weeks or several months.

    The share price you nominate can be higher or lower than the current price -- in other words you can bet that the price will go up or down.

    You win money for every cent the price goes above your "up bet" price, or below your "down bet" price.

    Conversely, you lose money if the price goes opposite to your prediction.

    Punters can place "stops" to prevent massive losses should share prices change rapidly.

    It is called spread betting because the bookmaker makes a small profit on each bet by pocketing a "spread" of a few cents either side of the current market price.

    Alice Springs Centrebet operator Gerard Daffy said spread betting was traditionally for sport.

    An example would be to bet on whether Mark Waugh gets more than a duck or less than a century.

    "With this caper there are big risks because you can lose a lot if an unexpected result occurs, like a collapse in the share market, or if Waugh hits more than 200 runs," he said.

    "With normal sports betting, if your team, say Essendon, gets thumped unexpectedly, you lose your $10 or $20."






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