Home > Legal & compliance > Tabcorp ordered to pay AU$370,417 over underage gambling in Victoria

Tabcorp ordered to pay AU$370,417 over underage gambling in Victoria

| By Robert Fletcher
The Melbourne Magistrates’ Court in Victoria has ordered Tabcorp to pay AU$370,417 (£192,777/€227,984/US$246,247) after the group pled guilty to 43 charges for failing to prevent a minor from gambling in the Australian state.
Tabcorp Victoria

The Victoria Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) announced charges against Tabcorp in May 2023. This related to allowing a 17-year-old to gamble on multiple occasions between May 2022 and October 2023.

Venues of concern included Albion Charles Hotel, Brunswick Club, Coburg TAB Agency, Cramers Hotel, Doncaster Hotel, Duke of Edinburgh Hotel, Edwardes Lake Hotel, Excelsior Hotel, Northcote TAB Agency, Olympic Hotel, Parkview Hotel, Preston Hotel and the Rose Shamrock & Thistle Hotel.

The case was passed on to the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court, which this week ruled against Tabcorp. In addition to underage gambling charges, the court also ruled that Tabcorp failed to properly supervise its electronic betting terminals (EBTs).

“The breaches committed by Tabcorp are incredibly serious,” VGCCC CEO Annette Kimmitt said. “They reflect a fundamental failure to protect minors from the risks associated with gambling, as well as a lack of vigilance on their part.

“Gambling providers and their staff are on the frontline of our efforts to prevent underage gambling. It is their duty to rigorously check IDs and supervise gambling activities to ensure minors are not able to access these services. Their vigilance is crucial in safeguarding young people from the harms of gambling.

“It is imperative that all stakeholders in the gambling industry understand the gravity of this issue and take their responsibilities seriously to prevent such harm.

“These failures undermine the integrity and safety of the industry.”

Victoria clamping down on underage gambling

The order is the latest action authorities in Victoria have taken over underage gambling and failing to monitor EBTs. This all relates to alleged breaches of the Gambling Regulation Act 2003.

In September 2023, the VGCCC charged Tabcorp and several venues over underage gambling across the past eight months. This covers the period between September 2022 and October 2023.

The first case came to court when a magistrate fined the Preston Hotel AU$25,300 for allowing a then-16-year-old to gamble using EBTs in 2022.

It was previously stated Tabcorp faces a total of 72 charges. If found guilty, the operators face a maximum collective fine of over $1.0m. Tabcorp’s fine could amount to $969,236.

The case has also led to Tabcorp facing other measures in Victoria. In January, the VGCCC ordered Tabcorp to make most of its EBTs in the state cashless. This was in direct response to incidents of underage gambling.

As of late January, approximately 70% of Tabcorp’s 1,800 EBTs across Victoria only accept vouchers. To access cashless machines, players must purchase a voucher at the counter. Here, they face ID checks to ensure they are of legal age to gamble on EBTs.

Tabcorp hit with other charges in Victoria

The underage gambling case is the second major issue to hit Tabcorp in Victoria over the past 12 months.

In September, the VGCCC fined Tabcorp a record AU$1.0m over its conduct during a major system outage in 2020. Tabcorp’s Wagering and Betting System (WBS) went down on 7 November 2020, during that year’s Spring Racing Carnival.

The VGCCC hit out at Tabcorp over its actions, including how the operator did not voluntarily provide adequate information about the outage and criticised its conduct during the investigation. Tabcorp was also blasted for its “repeated failure” to comply with directions.

At the time, the fine was the largest ever issued in relation to gambling in Victoria. This may, however, be beaten by a potential fine facing Rumotel, operator of the Tower Hotel.

Rumotel could face an additional fine of up to $1.4m for allegedly breaching responsible gambling rules. The VGCCC is yet to confirm whether the fine will be issued, despite the announcement being made back in October. 

Exclusive rights a boost for Tabcorp 

Of course, the charges against Tabcorp have been a blow for the operator. However, there is seemingly no question about its long-term future in Victoria after it recently secured a package of rights.

In December, Tabcorp was awarded exclusive rights to offer wagering and betting in Victoria for the next 20 years. Tabcorp’s licence period commences in August 2024, immediately after its current exclusive licence expires.

Tabcorp, which has held its current licence since 2012, will pay the Victorian government more than $1.00bn over the next two decades. The licence authorises it to conduct betting activities in Victoria, including the only authorisation to take bets in-person, outside of racetracks. 

Had the new licence terms applied for 2023, group EBITDA would have been $140m higher on a pro forma basis.

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