Australia's High Court Rejects Online Sports Book's Appeal to Regain Fees

Published Saturday, March 31, 2012 -

Online gambling firms Betfair and Sportsbet have gambled and lost in their fight to get back $100m plus in fees imposed by the New South Wales horse racing bodies. The fees levied on bookmakers amounting to 1.5% of betting turnover which Betfair and Sportsbet thought to be in violation of the Australian Constitution’s free trade provisions. The fees were charged for race field data and NSW passed legislation in 2006 that allowed Racing NSW and Harness Racing NSW to levy the fees. Back in 2010 the betting operators lost the case they brought to the Federal Appeals Court but continued to gamble in the expectation they would win in the High Court in Canberra but Australia’s High Court has unanimously ruled in favour of the New South Wales racing organizations.

The decision by the judges proclaimed the fees as valid under the terms of the NSW legislation. And that the fees were imposed uniformly on operators regardless of whether they were intrastate or out of state and were neither discriminatory nor protectionist. They also failed to identify a connection between a betting firm’s location and its turnover. John Messara Racing NSW chairperson said confidently he was glad the argument is finally over, “four years of uncertainty,”

George Souris, Racing Minister for the New South Wales region commented on the judgement indicating it would, “become the legislative national template to ensure the racing industry receives its fair share of fees from wagering operators.” Peter V’landys Racing NSW CEO said the decision was, “terrific news for NSW racing but also for other race organizations in Australia and the world. It will also have ramifications for other sporting bodies.” Cormac Barry CEO for theSportsbet organization did not agree with the Racing Minister’s assumption that the ruling would serve as a template for other organizations to levy fees. The firm’s marketing director Barni Evans was disappointed with the loss and made a point of saying the costs associated with the fees would not be passed on to the consumer.

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