A Federal Court in Australia has unanimously ruled that betting agencies Betfair and Sportsbet must pay Racing NSW a 1.5% tax on turnover, rather than on gross revenue (the option favored by the companies). The betting agencies had filed an appeal questioning Racing NSW’s right to apply the tax in this manner, but the Court declared the legislation that spawned the tax was valid. The decision frees up some $120m that had been collected from bookmakers but was being withheld from the racing industry pending result of the appeal.
In filing their appeal, the betting agencies had also claimed that Racing NSW had engaged in a conspiracy with Tabcorp and other New South Wales bookmakers to unfairly punish the betting agencies. Betfair’s Aussie CEO Andrew Twaits went as far as to say that Tabcorp “has been running the case.” The court rejected this charge.
Sportsbet and Betfair now have 28 days in which to decide whether to appeal the Federal Court’s ruling to the High Court. Twaits said Betfair was considering all its options, from a High Court appeal to approaching the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) “with some compelling evidence of anti-competitive conduct.” Of course, there’s always the ‘nuclear option’ — posting compromising photos of the High Court judges ‘waggling their wigs’ on Facebook — but let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.