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A good chance for a good precedent to be set here

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Just a quick ethical question for my readers, in the event of a poor deluded gambling addict stealing form their employer to feed their habit should the gambling entity be forced to repatriate the money? In every other circumstance when someone comes into possession of stolen property you don’t get to keep that property when its status becomes known. Why should stolen money that is gambled away be treated any differently? It is just not ethically sustainable for casinos to be able to keep these proceeds of crime in the opinion of this humble scribe and I hope that in  this case the court finds precisely that because such a precedent should make entities like Crown think twice about accepting money from people who are obviously gambling beyond their means.

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  1. Jeff G. says:

    Actually Iain there was a case of relevance a few years ago, not far from where I live. A woman who worked at a local pub/club embezzled $700k (I think it was) from her employer. Some of this she spent on material things but about 2/3rds she put back through the pokies at the venue where she worked. Anyway she was caught, convicted and jailed. But then her ex-employer tried to get a court order to seize her house and other property, to recover their losses. In other words, they wanted the whole $700k back, even though most of it had been put back into their machines! I thought this was a bit rich. I never did find out what the outcome was.

    Anyway I am with you on this, it’s not right for casinos to keep the proceeds of crime. They benefit from stolen money far more than they should. The only problem is that because it’s cash, how do you track it, and thus make a legal demand for its return? It’s an easy principle to talk about but putting it into practice has several problems.

  2. Jeff G. says:

    Oh and I forgot to mention that I think that gambling addiction is a genuine illness, as much as addiction to drugs or the booze. It is like a kind of financial syphilis that distorts your judgement. Which is not to say that people who steal to gamble should be immune from prosecution. But the courts should take into account the dangerous effect it can have on people’s decision making.

  3. Paul Murray says:

    Casinos should not be permitted to operate. Period. This includes clubs with row upon row of gambling machines. If I run an auto repair shop, but make all my money selling cabbages, then I am not an auto repairer – I am a greengrocer. These “clubs” are not clubs: they are casinos.

    Ok, so the local RSL or footy club would not be able to operate without gambling revenues? Then they don’t deserve to continue operating. They are given these licenses because someone is convinced that having these clubs existing is in the public interest. The harm that these machines do outweighs any public good the clubs might contribute. Shut ’em down. If it really is that important they continue to be around to sponsor whatever-the-hell they are supposed to be doing, then just fund ’em outright from the public purse.

  4. Iain Hall says:

    I tend to agree with you about gambling Machines Paul, I am personally quite opposed to all sorts of gambling. I never even get involved with betting in any shape or form, not even a flutter on the Melbourne cup or a lottery ticket. Amazing the way that ticket sellers look askance at you when you tell them that you have amoral objection to gambling in any form.
    That said though my point here is that gambling institutions should not be immune form having to return stolen property when it have been put through their business. Just as someone who inadvertently bought a stolen car can not keep it Casinos should not be able to keep stolen money either.

  5. Paul Murray says:

    There are a couple of difficulties.

    First – money is fungible. A dollar stolen is exactly the same as a dollar not stolen. If I steal a million and honestly earn a few hundred and then put half a million down on red, do we deem that the first couple of hundred was not stolen and that the casino gets to keep it? Or do we go on a proportional basis, and the casino only keeps the first few cents?

    Second – who else does this apply to? Does woollies have to give back the money the criminal spent there? If he buys a mars bar, does the newsagent have to give back the two bucks because it was purchased with stolen money?

    This is why the “good faith” rule applies. Once the stolen object is sold to someone who buys it in good faith, who had no reason to believe it was stolen, then that’s it. Otherwise we’d spend all our time and energy unwinding transactions and dragging innocent people into the mill.

    The issue, however, is this: if a brickie’s labourer comes into a casino and drops 10 mil, is the Casino operating in good faith when they accept the bet?

    At a guess: one side is saying “it’s ten million bucks, for gods sake, you ought to spare a thought and wonder where it’s from!”, the other is saying “We have to monitor the personal spending habits of everyone who walks through the door? That’s bullshit!”

    At first glance, I think the casino has the stronger argument.

  6. Jeff G. says:

    Like a lot of our politicians, Iain has presented a principle that is sincere and agreeable in theory but unworkable in practice. Once money changes hands the third party has accepted it in good faith and is not to know if it is stolen or honestly earned. If a criminal steals money and uses it to buy a house, car or boat, that’s easy, the authorities just seize the chattels from the criminal. But when the criminal hands cash over to someone else, it’s a different story. The money is effectively gone.

    May be casinos should be made to set aside a compensation fund to be shared amongst those individuals and businesses who are fleeced by addicted gamblers.

  7. Iain Hall says:

    Thanks got your considered reply Paul but I disagree that the casino has a case to keep the money in this instance. If it was a one off splurge I think that they could argue that they had no idea about the gambler’s circumstances but this was a case of a woman who consistently gambled and lost over many months and even though she made no secret of her rather modest circumstances they did not even think of anything but the money she was pouring into their coffers. Worse still they kept offering here inducements to keep gambling. The MUST have known that she was doing something dodgy to get so much money to waste.

  8. Paul Murray says:

    Not much to add, except that a precedent for this sort of behaviour being reprehensible is how it’s illegal for pubs to encourage binge drinking.

  9. brett rossi says:

    Would you permit me to publish this on twitter?

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