VenueNet sues for return of "Gambling Device"

After eight months and no charges, Aussie company wants its machine back

The Victorian Commission for Gambling could find itself in court this week after confiscating a touch screen computer kiosk which it claimed was a "gambling device" and holding it for eight months without instituting charges.

The owners of the machine, VenueNet, say that the machine was seized in a Melbourne pub in August last year as a suspected betting device, and after 8 months with no prosecution they want a court order returning their equipment, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

A court action could provide a useful test of the state's outdated gambling regulations in the age of the internet, observers have noted amid claims that the device was seized after regional gambling giant Tabcorp, which holds an exclusive license for retail rights in pubs from the state, complained about the machine.

VenueNet was commissioned by Aussie betting group Sportsbet to develop the computer kiosks and provide access to Sportsbet and other services through the internet, using the kiosk, which is on trial.

VenueNet's chairman, John Thompson, told told the local publication BusinessDay that the delay in prosecuting the case had cost his company millions of dollars and he was considering seeking compensation. The company has plans to install 200 similar machines in the eastern states of Australia, he revealed.

Thompson said VenueNet was not willing to try the machine in other states until the Victorian case had been determined. ''I think we'd face something like this [again] until this is resolved. Everyone's focusing on this.''

The AAP reports that the manufacturers of the hard drive and equipment used in the kiosk have provided sworn statements saying the machine is no different to other computer kiosks they supply, for example to airports. It allows users, through the internet, to access Sportsbet's website and then use a Sportsbet betting account, but the computer does not in itself accept or record bets and therefore cannot be designated a "gambling device."

The Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation appears unhappy with the idea of Sportsbet involvement in a court hearing, and last Friday lodged an appeal with the Victorian Supreme Court to stop "third party" Sportsbet being heard on legal issues relating to the seizure warrant in the case.

The commission is understood to be seeking access to more material from VenueNet before laying charges.

Experts at the independent professional business services company Deloittes have already examined the machine for the Commission to determine how it operates.

The Victorian commissioner, Peter Cohen, said he believed the machine was illegal. ''The [commission] is still of the view that it is an unauthorised instrument of betting,'' he said.

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