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Judge Orders "Messy" Sportsbet Case To Start Monday

Friday, 27th November 2009

More than $44 million in fees to fund the NSW racing industry “has been frozen pending an outcome in the landmark challenge to how the state's racing regulator sets them,” reported The Sydney Morning Herald. The money “may be refunded to bookmakers & the NSW arm of Tabcorp if the legal challenge brought by betting exchange Betfair & corporate bookmaker Sportsbet is successful.” The Federal Court heard that while the racing industry players “had paid their fees under the system introduced in July last year, the money was sitting unused because of the chance it would need to be repaid”. Lawyers for Racing NSW told the court it was important the case be decided “as soon as possible, because the freeze on the funds was hurting the industry”. Their comments came after Sportsbet unsuccessfully applied to Judge Nye Perram to postpone the hearing of its 4-day case” scheduled to start on Monday. While both Sportsbet and Betfair are arguing a similar case (they want a fee structure based on gross revenue rather than turnover) their cases are being heard separately. Both cases have been “weighed down by fights over whether each side should hand over hundreds of documents relating to the decision to impose the fee & whether these documents should be kept confidential”. Sportsbet's barrister Tim North said there was a danger he would not be prepared to begin his case on Monday because he had been inundated with documents. Justice Perram conceded the Sportsbet case was “going to be quite messy when it starts” & there was a danger the case could turn into a “firewreck”, but ordered it should go ahead. He noted the fight over documents between Sportsbet & Racing NSW & the NSW Government had been “a fun park” compared with the Betfair case. Racing NSW's barrister Simon Kerr said that in the Betfair case, he received documents from Betfair at 1.30am on the day the hearing began & declared: “They were still warm as your honour received them on the day of the hearing.”

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