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Tabcorp fined record AU$1m in Victoria over historic system outage

| By Robert Fletcher
The Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) has fined Tabcorp a record AU$1.0m (£506,986/€592,679/US$636,096) over its conduct during a major system outage in 2020.
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Tabcorp’s Wagering and Betting System (WBS) went down on 7 November 2020, during that year’s Spring Racing Carnival. This left the service unavailable for approximately 36 hours.  

The Wagering and Betting Licence and Agreement states that the WBS must be continuously available. This resulted in the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation, the VGCCC’s predecessor, investigating the incident.

Directions were then issued after Tabcorp failed to voluntarily provide adequate information about the outage to the regulator. 

Tabcorp blasted for not following directions

The VGCCC said Tabcorp’s conduct during the investigation and its response to the directions impacted its ability to understand the cause of the major outage. The regulator said it did not have confidence that a similar issue would not happen again.

Further investigation by the VGCCC found Tabcorp did not comply with the first direction as it failed to produce a response that confirmed the WBS business continuity and disaster recovery arrangements established after the outage were “fit for purpose”.

In terms of the second direction, the VGCCC said Tabcorp failed to comply as it submitted a compliant report four months after the deadline.

Fine issued to Tabcorp over “unacceptable” conduct

Ruling on the case, the VGCCC said the seriousness of the breach warranted a record fine from the regulator. The VGCCC also referenced Tabcorp’s “repeated failure” to comply with directions.

“We will not tolerate licensees that are not forthcoming and cooperative when the Commission investigates,” VGCCC chair Fran Thorn said.

“The Commission had to use its compulsory powers and issue directions because Tabcorp did not provide the information we required about the business continuity and disaster recovery capability of its systems. It is Tabcorp’s failure to comply with these directions that has led to the fine announced today. 

“All entities we regulate – no matter how big or small – have an obligation to be open and honest with the Commission and responsive to its lawfully issued directions. We will not tolerate attempts to frustrate our investigations.” 

Clamping down on regulatory breaches in Victoria

Tabcorp is the latest operator to feel the VGCCC’s wrath in recent months as the regulator continues to tackle breaches.

Last month, the Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group (ALH) was fined $550,000 for its breach of state rules on gambling control.

The regulator identified 220 gaming machines running without the YourPlay mandatory pre-commitment technology installed. All licensees in the state must install YourPlay on their gaming machines. YourPlay allows players to set limits of time or money spent and keep track of their machine play in Victoria.

Also in August, BlueBet was charged for breaching rules on advertising, with the operator facing a fine of up to $945,187.

BlueBet displayed three gambling ads on billboards in Victoria over a fortnight last year. 

The VGCCC said this was in breach of state laws that ban static gambling ads from appearing in certain locations.

Prohibited sites include on public transport infrastructure, within 150 metres of a school’s perimeter and on or above a public road, road infrastructure or road reserve.

Sweeping reforms in the state

This all comes against a backdrop of sweeping reforms to gambling laws in Victoria.

The state recently banned betting on all youth sport competitions. In another move, Victoria announced a suite of new gambling reforms aimed at reducing harms from “pokies”.

These follow the Royal Commission inquiry into malpractice at Crown Melbourne. In April 2022, the Commission found the casino “unsuitable” to hold a licence in the state. It also said the casino engaged in conduct which was “illegal, dishonest, unethical and exploitative”.

Last week, the VGCCC also issued a reminder to gaming operators to cease using sports club partnerships to attract new players. This came after the regulator uncovered incentives being offered that breach Victoria gambling rules.

It said some operators are entering agreements with clubs and inducing their members to create gambling accounts. These inducements link financial incentives to each member of the club that signs up.

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