A 62-year-old suspended Australian solicitor whose chronic gambling led him to place bets of A$14 million over five years lost his case against the New South Wales Government, TAB Limited and Tabcorp Holdings this week in litigation before Judge Robert McDougall.
Christopher Ronald Fitzsimons had claimed that a A$5 000 weekly credit betting facility should not have been made available to him and was invalid because the defendants failed to adequately complete due diligence, but the judge ruled that the credit betting facility was legitimately put in place, although he criticised the legalization that allows such schemes.
Legal representatives for Fitzsimons told the court that he had used the credit card details of his daughter, Louisa Roberts, to secure the facility. He said Fitzsimons later signed a direct debit agreement allowing Tabcorp to withdraw money from a bank account he held jointly with his wife Maria and his daughter Louisa.
Fitzsimons sought the return of A$4 749 324 – the total value of the 7291 bets he made through the credit betting facility between April 2003 and July 2006. From that amount, Fitzsimons would then repay to betting agencies his winnings of $1.5 million, his lawyer proposed.
Fitzsimons's 66-year-old wife Maria, also a former solicitor, and his daughter Louisa Roberts (34) who works in Singapore, also applied for damages.
In his argument before the court, the plaintiff's lawyer described Fitzsimons as "a chronic gambler", and said he bet "an extraordinary amount of money from year to year" – A$14 million in the five financial years from 2001.
"The tragedy was he maintained a facade of some prosperity for many years," he said, adding that the facade involved concealing the truth from his family. "He had been a fanatical gambler," the lawyer claimed. "In recent years,
the TAB installed computer facilities not only at his [Sydney] home but also at his holiday home in Cairns."
Fitzsimons had started "borrowing" clients' trust account monies, leading inevitably to "the facade coming crashing down" and the Law Society appointing a receiver to Fitzsimons's law practice, suspending him from practice in December 2005.
Despite a Government policy against credit betting, Fitzsimons was offered the facility after the scheme was approved by the then NSW racing minister for "high value customers".
"Mr Fitzsimons was a chronic gambler and if the facility was not made available to him, then the enormous volume of betting pursuant to that facility, would not have occurred," his legal representative said, contending that the approval of the credit betting facility was deficient and the agreement was invalid.
No security had been put in place and the facility should never have been offered to Fitzsimons, he said
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