Federal Court of Australia

The State of Victoria v Sportsbet Pty Ltd

12 October 2012

Facts

  • Sportsbet, a bookmaker licensed in the Northern Territory, installed a device known as a betbox at the Eureka Stockade Hotel in East Ballarat, Victoria.
  • In July 2010, the then Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation, seized the betbox under s 10.5.9(1)(c) of the Gambling Regulation Act 2003  (Vic).
  • The State and the commission argued the installation and operation of the betbox was a contravention of:
    • s 2.5.2 of the Gambling Regulation Act 2003, which prohibits a person from opening, keeping or using a 'betting house or place of betting', and
    • s 2.6.1 of the Gambling Regulation Act 2003, which prohibits a person from possessing an 'instrument of betting' not authorised by the act.
  • Sportsbet and the Eureka Stockade Hotel filed an application in the Federal Court against the commission and the State Government of Victoria.
    • The applicants argued the Gambling Regulation Act 2003 did not apply to the installation and operation of the betbox in Victoria, as the provisions do not apply where a bet is regulated by the law of another state or territory. As bets are accepted by Sportsbet in the Northern Territory, the act does not apply to the betbox terminal operating in Victoria.
    • The applicants also argued provisions of the Gambling Regulation Act 2003 were inconsistent with s 49 of the Northern Territory (Self Government Act) 1978 (Cth) – which guarantees free trade and commerce between the Northern Territory and the states.
  • Tabcorp Holdings Ltd joined the court action as a third respondent with the commission and the State of Victoria.

Federal Court Decision

  • The Federal Court found in favour of Sporstbet and the Eureka Stockade Hotel, concluding the provisions of the Gambling Regulation Act 2003 are inconsistent with s 49 as they burdened trade and commerce between the tand a state.
  • The state and Tabcorp appealed this decision.

Full Federal Court Decision

  • On 12 October 2012, the Full Court of the Federal Court found in favour of the state and overruled the previous decision.
  • The Full Court found the provisions did not impose a 'discriminatory burden of a protectionist kind' but rather a 'restraint' on wagering activities.
  • The Full Court found the Gambling Regulation Act 2003 provisions prevented the installation and operation of the betbox, or internet wagering devices in licensed premises, by anyone other than the holder of the single license, which in Victoria is Tabcorp Holdings Ltd.

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