Australian Court Tosses out SportOdds' Appeal in Cross-Border Gambling Case

22 November 2004

Licensed online bookmakers in Australia hoping to advertise their services in other jurisdictions lost another key battle last week when the High Court of Australia dismissed NT-based SportOdds' appeal of a lower court ruling that barred the company from advertising in New South Wales.

The law suit is one of several cases of this nature filed in Australia in recent months.

New South Wales regulators argued that SportsOdds, which is licensed in the Northern Territory, violated the state's Racing Administration Act (RAA) of 1998 by advertising its services and publishing odds in New South Wales.

A lower court agreed with the government, but SportOdds was granted and expedited appeal to resolve the matter. The bookmaker argued that the RAA imposed an invalid restraint on trade and commerce between Australian states and territories.

The High Court received written arguments from both sides during the appeal process, but threw the case out of court last week after hearing the oral argument from SportOdds' solicitors--before the NSW Solicitor-General even appeared before the High Court.

The SportOdds case could be a big blow for an industry looking to promote itself across jurisdictional boundaries. A common argument for the bookmakers is that any cross-border restrictions were unconstitutional because they were a breach of the "free trade between the states" section of the constitution.

With the High Court throwing out the appeal at such an early stage, the implications for online bookmakers could be devastating. The High Court made no official comment on the case, but it appears the courts don't feel that restrictions on betting sites violate the free trade clause.

Nevertheless, the industry isn't finished trying to establish precedent. Officials with NT-based IASbet are scheduled to appear in Downing Center Criminal Court on Tuesday to establish a date for a full hearing to face similar charges brought against it by the New South Wales government.