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Poker News | World Poker News

Betfair Bets on Court Being Fair

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Betfair, the Australian Internet wagering company, is trying to shoot down the West Australian (WA) law that bans residents from placing bets using their online service. Betfair, which is partially owned by the casino magnate James Packer, is based in Tasmania and currently operates with restrictions on their operations in mainland states.

High Court judges recently began hearing challenges to the laws that restrict the activities of Betfair's internet gambling exchange.

Betfair's representative, Stephen Gageler SC, guided the High Court judges through a slide show lasting more than 30 minutes, which he used to help explain the process of placing an online bet on a horse race or AFL team using Betfair. Gageler demonstrated to the judges how to bet AUD10 on the West Coast Eagles to win the AFL premiership, but he was sure to let them know they were allowed to bet on any team they fancied.

After the slideshow, Justice Michael Kirby admitted to knowing little about how betting odds worked and said, "This is getting interesting ... I might get addicted."

Betfair is arguing that the WA laws contradict section 92 of the constitution which stipulates that trade between states should be absolutely free.

Under the current WA laws, interstate punters are prohibited from betting on WA races. Betfair however, allows punters to bet on the loser, rather than just who will win. No bets are accepted unless there is a matched bet from another punter backing the opposite outcome. Because of this policy, Betfair doesn't take the usual risk a bookmaker does.

Defending Betfair's system, Mr. Gageler said, "Betfair differs from other betting agencies in that it allowed punters to back a greater range of possible outcomes. What it comes down to is a clash of a 19th-century production process with a 21st-century production process, leading to a product with limited options versus a product with more enhanced options for the customer. While WA racing authorities wanted to retain control over bets placed on WA races from interstate, there was virtually nothing they could do to stop overseas bookies offering bets for WA races."

Justice Susan Crennan commented, "I can see authorities would have concerns about the integrity of the racing industry when Betfair allowed punters to bet on adverse outcomes, such as which horses would lose a race, known as a lay bet. It's much easier to monitor bets on a short-priced favorite to win than it is to monitor a whole collection of lay bets."

Justice Kirby verbally criticized Betfair for bringing the case before the High Court first, instead of to Federal Court or state court, where the judges would have had the opportunity to review specific facts of the case. "I cannot imagine the high court of the United States or Canada sitting for three days to hear a trial case like this," Justice Kirby said, in reference to the defense team's written submission being the longest he had ever seen.

As the case continues, other state governments have taken Western Australia's side, except for Tasmania. They naturally are supporting Betfair, which is headquartered there.

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