Australia has the distinction of being the country with the highest gambling rate in the world. Approximately 80 percent of Australian adults engage in some form of gambling, whether online, on gaming tables, or on “pokies,” the native Australian term for slot machines. Australians gamble in casinos, bars, and clubs. They engage in poker, blackjack, roulette, and all the other standard table games, as well as sports betting. With its plenteous opportunities for gambling, the Australian betting scene has definitely had its share of drama as well. Below are just a few of the scintillating stories that have popped up from down under in the past several months.
“Ocean's 11” Crime at Melbourne's Crown Casino
Australia's largest casino, the Crown Casino of Melbourne, was the victim of large-scale fraudulent gambling in March of 2013. The purported crime took place in the casino's VIP high stakes room, where a foreigner won approximately $33 million U.S. dollars over the course of eight rounds of cards. An accomplice to the accused card player apparently accessed the casino's security system from a remote location and monitored the game in real time. As the game progressed, the accomplice was able to view each player's hand. Through invisible technology, he used the information he gleaned from his illicit spying to advise his partner how to play and win.
The accused, who is not a native Australian, was living on casino resort property with his family at the time of the incident. When authorities discovered what had happened, they promptly evicted the man and his family. Since the heist occurred, the accused has returned to his home country. Australian authorities remain hopeful that the Crown Casino will be able to get much of its lost $33 million back.
South Australian Premier Seeks to Ban Gambling Advertisements During Sporting Events
Sports betting runs rampant in Australia (read this story). For this reason, Premier Jay Weatherill has made a move to ban televised gambling ads during sports games. Weatherill hopes the proposed change will help citizens enjoy games without the pressure of gambling, and that children will suffer less exposure to what could potentially lead to a detrimental lifelong habit.
In Australia, betting odds are commonly displayed on TV before, during, and after televised sports matches. Weatherill has indicated that he would like to stop this practice, allowing the public to enjoy the games without the nuisance of a gambling interruption. He has indicated that the display of projected odds would still be permitted on television before and after games.
In addition to these efforts, Weatherill is currently working with Australia's Independent Gambling Authority (IGA) on a package of reforms that would address what some consider to be an insidious national gambling problem. The Premier has met with criticism from both sides of the issue, but maintains that his ultimate goal is to protect his citizens, especially children, from industry-led regulations that are harmful. At the same time, he does not intend to outlaw gambling.
Australian Gaming Revenue Erroneously Distributed
A recent audit of Australia's Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation showed that someone is not paying very close attention to the disbursement of gambling revenue funds. Auditor Andrew Greaves found that over 40 nonprofit groups in Australia received the same revenue payment twice from the Liquor and Gaming office. Similar oversights were discovered during the Office's last audit in 2009, but the problems cited in that report have yet to be corrected. This means that on more than one occasion, nonprofit organizations have received more money than they were entitled to, through no fault of their own, from the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation.
Australian citizens are not taxed on their winnings. The government regards a casino victory as a matter of good luck, not an income that should be shared with the government. Rather, casinos and other gambling facilities are the ones who pay such taxes in Australia. Revenue disbursements add up to $50 million per year, but unfortunately, this large sum appears to have been grossly mismanaged by those in charge.
Former CEO Steals More Than $6 Million to Fund Gambling Habit
Aussie Andrew Sigalla has been accused of stealing over $6 million from his former company, TZ Limited, in order to pay off debts owed to his bookie with Tom Waterhouse service. Sigalla was removed from his position as the electronics company's CEO in 2009. The company sued him for over $7 million dollars and the case was ultimately settled out of court. Later, in 2010, the Tom Waterhouse bookmaker also sued Sigalla for funds that he owed. That suit caused Sigalla to file for bankruptcy; he has yet to pay back the charges in full.
Interestingly, this was not Sigalla's first criminal offense. He has a history of run-ins with the law. Records show that he was previously charged with contempt for failing to admit to $30,000 worth of credit card charges made to an escort service.
In the past three months alone, the Australian gambling world has been witness to Hollywood-style fraud, political dramas, gigantic government-related financial oversights, and extreme gambling-related crimes. One reason for the high rate of gambling drama in Australia may be the recent explosion of casino businesses on the Aussie landscape.
Australia's Exploding Casino Scene
Australia saw an explosion of casino activity in the 1990s due to the legalization of pokies. One of Australia's most notable casinos is the Crown Casino in Melbourne, attracting approximately 12 million visitors a year. Sydney's Star City is another gigantic casino, approximately half a mile wide. With all of the dazzling opportunities to gamble in Australia, it is no wonder so many adult citizens participate in the activity. It is also not surprising that the country has seen its share of gambling-related dramas.