Aussie government in gambling scandal

A secret government scheme in Australia which allowed the country’s biggest gambling operator Tabcorp to lend money to customers to bet with has been uncovered.

At the centre of the scandal is Sydney solicitor Chris Fitzsimons, 62, who gambled away $10 million (AUS), losing his practise in the process and causing him to have a nervous breakdown.

The story goes back to 2002 when Tabcorp were known as TAB Limited. They secretly won approval from the New South Wales (NSW) Government to loan money to high-rolling customers after getting round a loop-hole in the NSW Gaming Act which allowed gamblers to borrow up to $10,000 from TAB.

Mr Fitzsimons was among 350 “special account customers” contacted by TAB who wagered at least $10,000 a week. Fitzsimons then met face-to-face with his TAB account manager in March 2003.

“They were going to offer me $5000 a week with which to bet,” Mr Fitzsimons said.

“It was top secret. I was to tell no-one about it – not even my wife – and I accepted.”

If Fitzsimons showed losses, TAB would then withdraw money from his bank account. However, come Monday morning TAB would deposit money in his account.

“If I had a wipe-out on Sunday night and I had 20 cents left, at 8am Monday morning I would have $5000 in my (betting) account and I can start betting at the 12 o’clock race at Coonamble or Narrabri or wherever that day,” Mr Fitzsimons said.

When Fitzsimons started to accrue heavy losses, he was then offered a credit increase to $10,000 as long as he wagered that amount. He refused the offer.

The scheme continued until July 2006, when he account was finally closed.

However, TAB has defended their position and claim they have done nothing wrong.

"Tabcorp has acted within the law and only offers betting facilities that have full State Government approval," Tabcorp spokesman Bruce Tobin told website.

"It conducts its wagering business in accordance with its Responsible Gambling Policy.

Editor, - 2007-08-23 12:09:23

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