Page 5671 - Week 14 - Tuesday, 6 December 2011

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act—to be equivalent licences under the Race and Sports Bookmaking Act 2001—the new act. Thus bookmakers’ licences current at the time of transition from the old act to the new act would continue to exist as though they had been issued under the new act.

However, the transitional arrangements also included a provision that allowed the relevant regulations to change the transitional provisions in the act. This provision, introduced by the former Liberal government, is unusual in that it purports to provide that a subordinate law can amend a principal act.

On the basis of the powers conferred under the transitional arrangements in the new act, section 9 of the Race and Sports Bookmaking Regulation 2001 amended the transitional provisions in the new act to include a maximum validity period for the old licences of six months after the commencement of the new act. Such a provision does not seem to have taken into account the fact that a licence may have just been issued under the old act. Race bookmakers and race and sports bookmakers’ agents were often issued a licence for five years while sports bookmakers were issued a licence for a period of 15 years.

Following a search of territory records it appears that bookmakers’ licences were in fact not reissued within the six-month transitional period—that is, before 8 March 2002—as required by the regulation through its amendment of the transitional provisions of the act. This raises the question of the standing of the licences that were due to expire after the six-month transitional arrangements but were not reissued under the new act within the six-month period.

The Gambling and Racing Commission, through the Government Solicitor’s Office, has obtained senior counsel advice that indicates that the bookmakers’ licences that were not reissued under the new act before 8 March 2002 are likely to be invalid based on the operation of section 9 of the regulation.

On the basis that doubt exists as to the validity of transitioned bookmakers’ licences an urgent clarification is required. While all race bookmakers’ licences and the agents’ licences have expired and many of them have since been renewed, some several times, the question of legitimising the operation of those licences while they were purported to be current still remains.

Further, as sports bookmaking licences are issued for a 15-year period, some licences are still current, such as ACTTAB, and require legitimisation so that they may continue to operate in the manner that the wagering providers, punters and regulators have assumed in good faith.

Advice from the Government Solicitor’s Office, backed by senior counsel, has suggested that the only feasible way forward is to enact retrospective legislation that validates the bookmakers’ licences from 7 March 2002 as the last date that the regulation allowed the licences to be valid. This would ensure that all bookmaker activity and tax collections undertaken after that date under licences that were assumed to be valid were in fact legitimate.

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