Tabcorp’s Cambodian online betting ambitions arouse regulatory scrutiny

TAGs: Australia, Cambodia, hun sen, Luxbet, Tabcorp

tabcorp-cambodia-probeAustralian wagering operator Tabcorp Holdings has extended its sponsorship deal with the Victoria Racing Club (VRC).

On Friday, Tabcorp announced that it had inked a new eight-year official wagering partnership with the Flemingdon Racecourse-based VRC. The new pact will see the parties extend their existing relationship to 2024, when Tabcorp’s current Victorian betting license expires.

The new deal, which takes effect Aug. 1, extends Tabcrop’s official wagering partnership of the VRC and the Melbourne Cup Carnival, while also allowing Tabcorp support sponsorship of the Emirates Melbourne Cup Tour and naming rights for the Group 1 Australian Cup.

In less positive news, Tabcorp’s former online gambling ambitions in Cambodia have prompted Australian and international anti-bribery agencies to raise questions regarding a $200k payment to the family of Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen.

On Monday, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Tabcorp deposited the money into a US bank account held by a consulting company connected to a sister of Hun Sen in 2010. At the time, Tabcorp was pursuing a Cambodian online sports betting license in order to boost the international profile of its new Luxbet online betting brand.

Recent years have seen Cambodia build a reputation as a hub for Asian-facing online gambling operations, which must be run in conjunction with a local brick-and-mortar casino.

The $200k payment was made despite internal Tabcorp advice that the payment could contravene corruption rules. Then-CEO and current CEO of the Australian Securities Exchange Elmer Funke Kupper told Fairfax Media that he couldn’t “recall anything like” the $200k payment and directed further questions to Tabcorp’s current management.

An unidentified spokesman for the Cambodian consulting firm told Fairfax Media that it had “not received any fee” although it did allow for the possibility that “a middleman … may have received some fees.” The spokesman noted that Tabcorp abandoned its Cambodian online ambitions in 2011 following a feasibility study.

Tabcorp issued a statement saying it ultimately “chose not to pursue” the Cambodian opportunity and that the company “takes its obligations under anti-bribery and corruption laws very seriously.”

US federal authorities responsible for enforcing the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bars US firms from making payments to foreign officials to help companies win local concessions, reportedly flagged the $200k payment for further investigation a year ago. The Australian Federal Police declined to comment on whether they’ve opened their own investigation.

Tabcorp is currently mired in legal proceedings regarding alleged anti-money laundering shortcomings at its domestic wagering operations, including allowing punters to illegally wager on credit and failing to report suspicious wagering transactions.


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