Norfolk Island loses power to license wagering

Australia’s federal government has stripped Norfolk Island of its power to grant and renew gaming licenses after a decision by the gaming authority last year brought an illegal bookmaker to Australia’s multi-billion dollar racing industry.

Australia’s Minister for Territories, Paul Fletcher revoked the island’s gaming authority’s power after the authority granted permission for betting exchange BetHQ in March last year, which effectively opened Australia up to Citibet, the largest illegal bookmaker in the world. The link between the two was discovered only last month.

“The NIGA did not make the most rudimentary probity and background checks on BetHQ, let alone Citibet,” said Racing Australia chief executive Peter McGauran to The Australian earlier this week. “They only had to Google Citi-Bet to see their alleged links with triads and also discover Racing Australia’s deep concerns about them wagering on our racing,” 

“The minister has acted decisively to repair the reputational damage to Australian racing by the actions of Norfolk Island,” said McGauran regarding the government’s quick intervention.

“Racing Australia will make a submission into the government inquiry into the future of the Norfolk Island authority, in which we will call for its permanent disbandment given its inability to properly assess applicants for wagering purposes,” McGauran added.

The minister’s direction prohibits NIGA from issuing and renewing gaming licenses, and effectively demands the authority stand down until a full audit of its procedures, previous decisions and protocols takes place. The audit, which will start in July, is expected to take three months.

It is understood licenses granted before the minister’s direction will not be affected.