11th of August 2011 Author: Glo Wood
Australian sports book bites the bullet on A$80 000 gambling debt
After bringing a Melbourne man to court and getting him to sell the house he shares with his mother in order to cover a A$80,000 debt, the Australian online sportsbook Sportsbet has agreed to cancel the claim and let the man have his house back.
Namely, everything apparently began when the man, who has a mental illness, was approached by Sportsbet.com.au to open an account, which he initially refused but was then offered $2000 and $3000 in free bets. These tempted him and he joined the company, even though he had no idea how Sportsbet got his number.
Later on, he took the company's offer of A$10,000 credit. A week later, he was offered another A$30,000, and he then applied for - and was granted - another A$40,000 in credit. All this happened in May, and since he could not repay the credit, Sportsbet took him to the Federal Court in July. Since he was declared bankrupt, he faced the sale of his house in order to cover the costs.
However, in an interesting turn, he received support from independent and virulently anti-online gambling politician Nick Xenophon, who agreed to act pro bono, and together with his lawyer, Sportsbet and the trustees came to an agreement this week to cancel the debt and pay the trustees to reinstate the house in his name.
Sportsbet refused to comment much citing confidentiality, but a company spokesman confirmed that the matter had been settled, adding: ''Occasionally we offer free bets to those wishing to bet with us and these are determined on a case-by-case basis.''
However, this issue seemed to infuriate Liberal MP Alan Tudge, who was contacted by the man and his mother over the issue, who assessed that Sportsbet was exploiting a legal loophole that allowed it to offer credit because it is registered in the Northern Territory, so he requested from the NT government in June to change the laws.
''Online gambling companies providing credit is particularly egregious because they take no risk when they issue the credit,'' he said, adding that he told Parliament he may use a private member's bill in a bid to override NT laws.
On the other hand, it was specified by Micheil Brody, executive director of licensing, regulation and alcohol strategy with the NT Justice Department, that there is no loophole and that bookmakers in all jurisdictions were able to offer credit. He continued, stating that the Racing Commission was reviewing the matter in relation to possible breaches of NT licensing controls.
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11th of August 2011
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