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UK Gambling Commission Makes Tabcorp Eat Humble Pie

Logo of Tabcorp

The U.K.-focused betting division of Australian gambling conglomerate Tabcorp got into trouble with the U.K. Gambling Commission and had to pay penalties of £84,174 according to a statement posted to the Commission's website on April 13. This judgment stemmed from Tabcorp subsidiary Sunbets' role in a controversial pie eating incident that was broadcast live on national TV during last year's FA Cup. We can not help but laugh as this is the same Tabcorp who lobbied for the latest anti-poker legislation passed in Australia and wrote a nasty little paper titled "Submission to the Impact of Offshore Wagering Review" (we quote some of that paper here) who is now, breaking the laws of the UK.

Pie Eating Incident?

Apple Pie

Yes, you read that right. You see, Sunbets had offered odds of 8/1 on Sutton United's reserve goalkeeper, Wayne Shaw, eating a pie during his club's FA Cup match against Arsenal. The fifth-tier Sutton was looking forward to its big day against Premier League Arsenal on Feb. 20, 2017, but the action on the field isn't what wound up dominating the headlines.

Sutton United vs Arsenal Matchup

Wayne Shaw's antics stole the media's attention in a story that came to be called “pie-gate.” After about 82 minutes of play, Shaw could be seen eating a pie although he later claimed that it wasn't a pie but rather a “pasty.” Sutton lost the game 2-0.

Immediately after this occurred, suspicions arose that Wayne Shaw had eaten the pie after placing bets himself or having his friends bet on his behalf. He claimed that he had heard about the unusual betting market being offered on him, but he denied any impropriety, such as tipping off his friends to bet on the outcome. He claimed to have had no financial interest in eating the pie and said that he did it as a joke.

Nevertheless, Shaw was found culpable, and he was suspended for two months and fined £375. Shaw eventually resigned from the Sutton United Football Club.

Sunbets has stated that it paid out “five figures” to winning bettors on Wayne Shaw pie eating wagers.

Gambling Commission's Determinations


The UKGC found that Sunbets' risk assessment was lax in offering a bet that could induce an athlete to breach the governing rules of the sport. During the investigation, the authorities also discovered that Sunbets had allowed punters to wager on whether or not a streaker would appear on the field during the same Sutton United vs. Arsenal contest. This was held to be inappropriate because it involved encouraging people to perform a criminal act.

More Mistakes by Sunbets

Red “X”

The story kept getting worse for Sunbets. In an unrelated development, the firm conducted an internal investigation following reports from self-excluded individuals that they were able to continue wagering. After looking into the matter, Sunbets uncovered errors in its systems whereby blocked gamblers could create new accounts by changing their user names, bank cards, and email addresses.

In total, these errors allowed 118 supposedly excluded people to open up 141 duplicate accounts between August 2016 and May 2017 and access the sports-betting service. Sunbets refunded £24,174.97 to 127 of these accounts without being directed to do so by the UKGC. The other 14 accounts each had withdrawals surpassing the amounts deposited, so no reimbursements were made to them.

Sunbets Home Page
Website of Sunbets

Settlement Agreed to by Tabcorp

Pages of a Document

Tabcorp UK has agreed to donate £50,000 to charities, and it will pay £10,000 toward the investigation costs of the Gambling Commission. This is in addition to the £24,174 that it has already refunded users as a consequence of the duplicate account errors.

The company will ensure that it properly assesses the risks of any wager that it offers on “novelty” markets. This includes having a “named individual” who takes responsibility for every such betting market established by Sunbets with a complete audit trail to document it. Moreover, the organization has agreed to not allow wagers on the following:

i. Novelty markets which are dependent on an event which would be a breach of the relevant sports governing body’s current and publicly accessible rules; or
ii. Any markets which are dependent on an event which would involve the commission of a criminal offence.

Extra conditions have been applied to the license of Tabcorp, which it will have to comply with from now on.

Recent Gambling Commission Actions


The Gambling Commission of the United Kingdom isn't shy about cracking down on infractions when it feels that doing so is warranted. The recent ruling against Tabcorp is only the latest in a series of actions taken against offenders.

In March, Skybet had to fork over £1 million because it had sent marketing materials to about 50,000 self-excluded users, and making matters worse, 36,748 self-excluded customers didn't receive their account balances upon the closure of their accounts.

As severe as Skybet's seven-figure penalty was, it amounted to chump change compared to the sum levied on William Hill a month earlier: £6.2 million. It was revealed that several customers had deposited hundreds of thousands of pounds over periods of longer than a year, and Will Hill was lax in determining whether these were legitimate funds. It turned out that at least £1.2 million of this cash was linked to criminal activity. William Hill was determined to have not fulfilled its obligations with regard to anti-money laundering practices and social responsibility.

Earlier in February, ElectraWorks, which owns bwin, PartyPoker, PartyCasino, and several other properties, got into hot water. The UKGC decided that ElectraWorks had violated regulations surrounding the advertising of bonuses and other promotional deals. The fine was set at £350,000.

ElectraWorks had previously attracted the ire of the Advertising Standards Authority in August 2016. However, the ASA typically only issues warnings as it did recently against PokerStars. When it comes to fines, the ASA generally refers cases to other bodies with punitive enforcement powers, like the Gambling Commission.

Impact of the Tabcorp Decision

Billiards Table and Balls

Compared to some of the punishments meted out to other organizations in recent months, the £84,174 extracted from Tabcorp doesn't seem too weighty.

The company didn't dispute any of the facts reported by the UK Gambling Commission's investigation, which probably counted in its favor. Moreover, Tabcorp handled the matter of identifying and refunding the improper self-excluded duplicate accounts by itself while voluntarily disclosing the incident to the UKGC. This was probably viewed by officials as an indication of responsibility and probity.

All things considered, this settlement will likely have little ongoing effect on the business dealings of Sunbets or Tabcorp as a whole.