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Anthony Waller


Anthony Waller has enjoyed an unusual life by anybody’s standards

The entrepreneur, bookie, lawyer, accountant and former full-time professional punter lives by the motto of his old primary school: Perseverance Conquers.

He has other qualities than being a hard worker – intelligence, an innovative spirit and a joy in building a business.

But it’s sticking at it, having a never-say-die attitude to life, that has done much to bring him great success. Anthony is the founder and chief executive of a new Darwin-based bookmaking business called Bet Right.

The innovative company was three years in the making and is built on a lifetime of experience in the betting industry.

“I never mind doing the grunt work,” he says. “It’s a process. To me it’s all fun.”     

He graciously acknowledges that he has had marvellous mentors, who have taught him everything from bookmaking, law, finance and how to spot a business opportunity. “I’m grateful to them all.”

Bet Right offers the same services as the well-established bookmakers, but it will be building many points of difference, including new products designed for generational shifts. But it is a program to combat problem gambling that will catch the headlines.

Anthony and his 13-strong Territory team are in talks with Charles Darwin University to conduct research into gambling addiction, particularly how to detect early warning signs and then positively influence behaviour.

It will be the first study of problem gambling funded by a bookmaker in Australia and, possibly, the world. Bet Right will base client services, trading, data analytic and technology staff in Darwin.

“It’s not uncommon for bookmakers registered in the Territory to employ only a skeleton staff in the Territory with the majority of their staff located in other states. “We’ve got an office in Sydney, but the vast majority of our staff will be in Darwin. The Territory has been good to us – it’s only right that we give back and do our bit for the local economy.”

The Territory has attracted a swag of major bookmakers over the past 25 years because of favorable taxes and a progressive regulatory regime.

Bet Right has several high-profile investors, including the Darwin Innovation Hub. DIH founder Harley Paroulakis says: “Right from the start we liked Bet Right.

“Anthony presents as a proven performer and leader in the sports wagering sector with a track record in building gaming companies.”

“We also liked the novel business strategy and potential of this business to create high value local jobs in the areas of data analytics and computer engineering.”  Anthony is particularly proud of the harm minimisation research project.

“Bet Right is not about converting people into punters,” he says. “We want to provide a better wagering platform to those who like a punt.

“Gambling has been normalised over the past couple of decades. Eighteen-year-olds today have been seeing gambling ads since they were six. That’s never happened before in this country.

“Wagering is now almost a rite of passage for young people. But the brain doesn’t properly form until you’re in your mid-twenties. We have a responsibility to create safe sports betting practices.”

Bet Right’s research will be carried out by human behavioural scientists, psychologists and statisticians. All the work will be done in the Territory and has the strong support of the NT Government.

“We want to understand our role in minimising harm, not just to punters in their thirties but people who turn 18 and can legally open a betting account,” says Anthony.

“Since the early 2000s, the responsibility for harm minimisation has been largely aimed at the consumer with the Gamble Responsibly campaigns. The courts, too, have declared that gambling is the responsibility of individuals.

“As providers, there is some onus on us to adhere to responsible codes of conduct and the majority do a good job of it.

“I’m not suggesting there’s a silver bullet to solve gambling addiction, but we will do our bit by trying to ensure our platform enables substantiable betting entertainment.”

Anthony wants to highlight the entertainment and social aspects of gambling. “People go to the casino with $50 and are quite happy to lose it on the tables or pokies because they are mainly going there for entertainment. “But some gamblers bet on the internet and no longer see it as entertainment. That’s when they may fall into harm.”

He says the Territory Government has “done a great job” with its Code of Practice for Responsible Online Gambling, including an exclusion list, which allows problem punters to bar themselves from a particular bookmaker or all bookmakers licensed in the NT.

“We’d like to explore if there’s a way, we can use social proofing to influence gambling behavior. Good mates tell a bloke when he’s had too much to drink and should go home. Can we use technology to create that same social framework for mobile and internet sports betting?”

Anthony was the youngest of three boys born into a fairly humble family in Sdney’s west. His father Fred died of a form of asbestosis in 2009 after working as a meat inspector for more than 50 years; his mother Violet, who died in 2019, was a bank teller.

“They taught us the value of hard work and the rewards that follow.”

Bizarrely, his parents were literally born side by side of each other in hospital but didn’t know each other until they were in their teens.

“Yeah, we’re still trying to calculate the odds of that one.” Fred worked two jobs and was eventually able to buy a 2ha block of land at Cattai on the rural outskirts of Sydney in the early 1970s.

“It was a fantastic childhood,” says Anthony. “There were only 26 kids in my primary school. I sometimes rode my horse to school.” He joined an accountancy business after leaving school and studied part-time for a degree in accounting and finance.

Anthony, the first in his immediate family to go to university, later added a law degree and co-founded a legal firm. Wagering dominated his life from an early age – not recreationally, but simply as an interesting way to make money – and he soon became one of a handful of professional punters in Australia.

He used his maths skills to make a living by arbitraging – exploiting the difference in odds between the Tote and on-course bookies.

“It’s virtually impossible to do what we did then now with technology making pricing far more transparent.  I’m thankful for the experience as it made me very aware of the importance of price for any punter, recreational or professional.” It was a disciplined life.

Anthony spent several days a week at the track – including at one time shuttling between Sydney and Brisbane – and still managed to study for his law degree at night. He worked with other professionals for more than a decade until he turned to bookmaking in the late 1990s, working with legendary bookie Michael Sullivan.

As part of a small team, he and Sullivan combined to build Sportingbet to be Australia’s biggest bookmaker with turnover of about $3 billion before it was sold to William Hill in 2013.

“Sportingbet was a pioneer and gave me great life experiences, including living in Darwin.” 

 He left the bookmaking business in 2014 and linked up with entrepreneur Brian Price to expand his experience into financial market infrastructures.

“The lessons I learned from Brian opened my eyes to the similarities between financial and betting market infrastructures.”

The excitement wasn’t confined to the track or boardroom. Anthony went to a Sydney pub one night and met Archana, an Indian student studying for a master’s in marketing.

They fell in love, married and now have two daughters, Meera, 18, who was born in Darwin, and 15-year-old Esha.

The first question Archana’s parents asked their daughter when she announced she was marrying an Aussie was: “What does he do for a living?”

“she told them I was a lawyer, which was true. She decided to leave out the bookmaking bit. “In the end, it didn’t matter – they were lovely and very supportive.”

Anthony and Archana had a traditional wedding in Delhi. It lasted three days and, by Indian standards, was a modest affair – just 300 guests. And it goes without saying that it included elephants.