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In a landmark decision, the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) has imposed a record-breaking fine of AU$1 million on Tabcorp for its conduct during a major system outage that occurred in 2020. This incident sent shockwaves through the gambling industry, sportsbetting groups and raised serious questions about the company’s ability to meet regulatory requirements.
Tabcorp’s Wagering and Betting System (WBS) experienced a critical failure on November 7, 2020, coinciding with that year’s Spring Racing Carnival. The consequences were significant, with the service remaining unavailable for approximately 36 hours. This extended downtime had far-reaching implications, as the Wagering and Betting Licence and Agreement clearly stipulates that the WBS must be continuously available to ensure fair and consistent gambling experiences for consumers.
The VGCCC, the regulatory body responsible for overseeing such matters, launched an investigation into the incident. However, Tabcorp’s initial response to this inquiry left much to be desired, as it failed to provide sufficient information voluntarily. As a result, the regulator was forced to issue directions to compel Tabcorp to cooperate.
Criticism was leveled at Tabcorp for not adequately cooperating with the VGCCC during the investigation. This lack of cooperation hindered the regulator’s ability to ascertain the root cause of the major outage and raised concerns about the company’s commitment to preventing similar incidents in the future.
Subsequent investigations by the VGCCC revealed that Tabcorp had failed to comply with the first directive. The company did not respond to affirm that the WBS business continuity and disaster recovery plans put in place following the outage were “fit for purpose.” Furthermore, Tabcorp’s response to the second direction was tardy, submitted four months after the deadline.
In a stern ruling, the VGCCC declared that the seriousness of Tabcorp’s breach warranted a record fine. The regulator cited Tabcorp’s “repeated failure” to comply with directions and stressed its commitment to upholding the integrity of the industry.
VGCCC Chair Fran Thorn expressed the commission’s stance, saying, “We will not tolerate licensees that are not forthcoming and cooperative when the Commission investigates. All entities we regulate, no matter how big or small, have an obligation to be open and honest with the Commission and responsive to its lawfully issued directions. We will not tolerate attempts to frustrate our investigations.”
Tabcorp is the latest operator to face the VGCCC’s disciplinary measures. This reflects the regulator’s determination to tackle breaches and uphold the highest standards in the industry.
In the previous month, the Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group (ALH) faced a $550,000 fine for violating state rules on gambling control. The breach involved 220 gaming machines operating without the mandatory YourPlay pre-commitment technology, a requirement for all licensees in the state.
August saw BlueBet charged with breaching advertising rules, potentially incurring a fine of up to $945,187. The operator has three gambling ads on show on billboards in Victoria, a breach of state laws that prohibit such advertising in specific locations, including public transport infrastructure and areas near schools.
These actions by the VGCCC coincide with sweeping reforms in Victoria aimed at curbing the potential harms associated with gambling. The state recently implemented a ban on betting on all youth sport competitions, and a suite of new gambling reforms is in the pipeline. These reforms were initiated following the Royal Commission’s inquiry into malpractice at Crown Melbourne, which deemed the casino “unsuitable” to hold a license in the state and uncovered unethical conduct.
Additionally, the VGCCC recently issued a reminder to gaming operators to stop using sports club partnerships to get new players to come to thier online gamblinmg site. Some operators were offering incentives that violated Victoria’s gambling rules, including financial rewards for club members who signed up for gambling accounts.
In conclusion, the VGCCC’s imposition of a record AU$1 million fine on Tabcorp serves as a stark reminder of the regulator’s commitment to maintaining the integrity of the gambling industry in Victoria. The incident highlights the need for all operators, regardless of their size, to cooperate fully with regulatory authorities and adhere to established guidelines to ensure the safety and fairness of gambling activities in the state.
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