Type : Publication

Welcome to our December 2013 Gambling Law and Regulation Newsletter.
In this Newsletter, we cover some of the developments that have taken place throughout the last few months of 2013.

Harm minimisation has been a constant theme across the gambling space throughout 2013. The past few months have been no exception and each of the following developments is covered in this Newsletter:

  • In November 2013, the Advertising Standards Board upheld a complaint that a television commercial intended to discourage teenagers from gambling had the opposite effect – that is, it promoted sports betting to young children.
  • The Federal Government has recently announced that it would repeal poker machine reform laws introduced by the previous government in respect of voluntary pre-commitment.
  • Despite the Federal government's approach, the Victorian government is introducing legislation relating to pre-commitment.

We are often asked for advice in respect of unwanted bets, for example, bets placed by minors or self-excluded gamblers. Gambling operators often ask us how these bets should be dealt with, both in practice and in the operator's terms and conditions. This issue is covered in this Newsletter.

Australian wagering operators received a lot of media attention in 2013. The fierce competition that exists between the totalisators (whose business is founded on retail exclusivity) and the corporate bookmakers (which comprise predominantly Australian subsidiaries of leading European bookmakers, with Ladbrokes being the most recent entrant to the Australian entrant) will continue to intensify and was the subject of numerous media reports, particularly around the Spring Carnival.

One significant difference in the path taken by Ladbrokes into the Australian market is that it purchased a betting business licensed in Norfolk Island. Understandably, many involved in the industry are intrigued and want to know more about Norfolk Island. Set out in this Newsletter are some Norfolk Island FAQs. Additionally, there are often complaints made about the alleged industry practice of restricting winning punters from placing bets or the amount which these punters can stake.

One disgruntled punter took his complaint against Sportsbet to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). This decision confirmed that an operator could restrict punters in this manner without breaching Australian Consumer Law.

Additionally, this proceeding also raised the question of jurisdiction. Irrespective of the position in the Sportsbet terms and conditions that disputes should be dealt with by the Northern Territory Racing Commission, VCAT found that it had jurisdiction to deal with this complaint and found in Sportsbet's favour. This decision is addressed in this Newsletter.

On the subject of jurisdiction, wagering operators will find comfort in the Centrebet v Baasland decision of the Northern Territory Supreme Court (NTSC) when it found that it, and not the Norwegian Courts, was the appropriate forum to hear a dispute between a Norwegian punter and Centrebet (a Northern Territory licensee). In reaching this decision, the NTSC applied the position in the Centrebet terms and conditions which stated that customers submit to the jurisdiction of the courts of the Northern Territory of Australia. A detailed summary of the Centrebet v Baasland decision is set out in this Newsletter.

Match and race fixing continue to dominate headlines, both in Australia and overseas. In late 2013, a number of football players from a sub-elite competition in Victoria pleaded guilty to various match fixing charges. These are the first convictions in Australia under match-fixing specific legislation. (Previously, prosecutions were brought under general criminal law provisions relating to fraud. This includes the successful prosecution of Ryan Tandy.) It is difficult to predict the issues that will affect the gambling sector in 2014. Who would have predicted new Australian casinos being approved? But this occurred in 2013 and it is quite possible that similar material issues will arise in 2014. Some of the issues that may affect online gambling in Australia in 2014 are summarised in this Newsletter.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.