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Tabcorp-Tatts deal may face another Tribunal hearing

Tabcorp facing Tatts deal delay

THE Tabcorp-Tatts merger may be further delayed, as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) calls for a fresh hearing.

The application lodged to the Australian Competition Tribunal could delay the $11.3 billion merger between the two gambling giants by at least another six months.

The ACCC’s submission backs CrownBet and Victorian racing authorities, which acted as intervenors during the first 14-day tribunal hearing held in May.

The Federal Court recently upheld an appeal against the Tabcorp-Tatts deal approved by the Tribunal. It has been sent back to the tribunal, which has already delayed the tie-up process. However, Tabcorp still remains confident the deal will be completed by November.

Tribunal president, Judge John Middleton, will hold a directions hearing in Melbourne on Tuesday morning to decide how to proceed, and whether it will approve the ACCC submission.

CrownBet has argued in its submission, prepared by QC Bret Walker, that fresh evidence should be considered given the changes which have occurred in the past few months. The introduction of point of consumption taxes, a ban on credit betting and bonuses, and gambling advertising restrictions around Australia and in Victoria are just a few of the changes corporate bookies have had to face since the hearing concluded in June.

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The corporate betting site, which is awaiting regulatory approval from the Supreme Court over its deal with ClubsNSW, has called on Tabcorp and Tatts to release new documents which address the issue of increasing the take-out rate after the merger. Plans to charge punters more and increase the percentage which the operator gets from a tote betting pool was discussed during the original hearing.

CrownBet said it was “likely that Tabcorp and Tatts will have created new and probative documents concerning an increase in take-out rates in the future with, and the future without the merger”.

“This information should be produced in order to facilitate the tribunal’s consideration of the matter,” it said.

Meanwhile, the ACCC has advised that the tribunal has now run out of time to hear the case.

“There is considerable doubt as to whether the tribunal still has jurisdiction to make a determination on Tabcorp’s application,” the ACCC said in its submission.

“In the circumstances, the most efficient and practical course would be for Tabcorp to make a further application for approval, so as to avoid debate and potential further dispute about the issue.”

However, the two Australian gambling conglomerates are arguing that the Tribunal has jurisdiction, and Tabcorp wants a decision based on court filings, with no further hearing.

If the Court’s finding that the Tribunal erred in its judgement is correct, then the Tribunal’s decision to approve the deal is void.

If it is the case, the Tribunal will have exceeded the six-month maximum timeframe to make a decision and the two gambling companies will have to make a new application to have the deal approved.

Tabcorp recently announced it would be holding a meeting with Tatts shareholders on October 18, a date which has not yet been shifted.

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