Australia’s Tabcorp Allowed Autistic Teenager to Illegally Gamble $4K

Australia’s leading gambling operator, Tabcorp, filed a guilty plea in court in Melbourne this week on charges it failed to stop an autistic teenager from illegally wagering more than AU$6,000 (US$4,000) at its electronic betting terminals. 

The child, who remained unnamed for legal reasons, stole money from his mother to fund his gambling spree between May 2022 and October 2023.

Despite the teen’s mother finding out and making efforts to get him banned from the casino-style venues in Melbourne, the gambling continued for several months. The teen also borrowed $17,000 to fund his wagering, although most of that was reportedly gambled online. 

Tabcorp suspended services at several of the Melbourne venues with gambling areas hosting its machines, and initiated new protocols to ensure underage gambling was restricted. 

However, that was not enough for regulators, who chased full prosecution. Now that it has been found guilty, Tabcorp could face licensing restrictions and up to an AU$750,000 fine. 

The Gambling

Between May 2022 and October 2023, the underage gambler placed 36 sports bets totalling AU$6200. He obtained the money by stealing his mother’s bank and credit cards, or by pawning family items. 

The gambling venues he chose were all Tabcorp licensed betting sections of various Melbourne bars and hotels, as well as two full Tabcorp-owned betting shops. 

The child also reportedly traveled between his gambling destinations on a scooter. A fact that the authorities say should have been a red flag of his young age. 

During the spree, the child’s mother actually went to some of the places her son had gambled and showed them images of the child so they wouldn’t let him in. She also made sure he did not have access to any of her cash.

Tabcorp says it did, at the time, distribute the images to all its licensed locations in Melbourne.

After being cut-off from the bank of mom, the teen borrowed money from older friends and online loan services. He carried on gambling at several venues that did nothing to stop him. 

“While electronic betting terminals are legal gambling products, they should not be easy for minors to access and use. Venue operators and Tabcorp are responsible for ensuring they are appropriately supervised at all times,” said Victoria Gambling and Casino Control Commission director Glorija Kuzman, speaking in 2023 after charges were filed. 

The Charges 

Tabcorp filed a guilty plea on more than 30 charges in Melbourne Crown Court this week. 

As well as the operator of the betting terminal, several of the independent Melbourne venues the child visited have also been charged, found guilty, and fined.

While Tabcorp is ultimately responsible for policing use of its machines, several of the venues broke their own licensing conditions allowing a minor to enter at all, let alone gamble. 

Tabcorp says it will also compensate the mother for her financial losses and emotional damages. It also says it has made a comprehensive review of its underage betting prevention measures, and closed two of its Melbourne locations while it overhauled systems in wake of the incident.

Magistrate Brett Sonnet is to pass sentence on an as yet-unnamed date in the following months.

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