Tabcorp going to High Court in $686 million Victorian pokies payout battle

Tabcorp punts on High Court for favourable compensation decision. Photo: John Woudstra
Tabcorp punts on High Court for favourable compensation decision. Photo: John Woudstra

Wagering giant Tabcorp is attempting to take its fight with the Victorian government for a $686 million payout all the way to the High Court.

The Melbourne-based company's appeal over an earlier judgment regarding its claim for compensation for the loss of its poker machine licence was dismissed on December 4.

However, on Wednesday the company said it would apply for special leave to appeal to the High Court of Australia.

Tabcorp, along with Tatts Group, operated Victoria's 27,500 pokies in venues outside of Crown Resort's Melbourne casino for 18 years.

But in 2008, the then Labor Brumby government decided to transfer the management of pokies to pubs and clubs, removing the two companies' licences. Both companies kicked off claims against the state.

Tabcorp's claim is that the state was obliged to make a payment to it in August 2012 when the old licence expired.

"The claim is based on a statutory provision included in legislation from 1994 when the state privatised the Victorian TAB and listed Tabcorp on the Australian Securities Exchange," the company said in a statement. "Tabcorp's initial public offering was underpinned by this statutory entitlement."

Tatts won a $540 million for its claim, which was successful because it argued on a contractual rather than a statutory basis, that it was entitled to compensation.

The Brisbane-based company's compensation may still be subject to appeal from the government. A spokesman for new Treasurer Tim Pallas said: "The government is considering its options in regard this."

In dismissing Tabcorp's appeal, a trio of Court of Appeal judges were scathing in their summary of the conduct of the Brumby government over its reform of the gambling sector that sparked the legal case.

The finding would "do little to enhance the state's reputation for reliability and commercial morality in its dealings", the judges said.

Despite the pointed comments, new Premier Daniel Andrews remains committed to terminating the contracts for Melbourne's controversial $6.8 billion East West toll road.

Mr Andrews said last week the comments from the judges in the court of appeal over the government's need to adhere to contracts had no bearing on his decision to tear up the contracts.

This story Tabcorp going to High Court in $686 million Victorian pokies payout battle first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.