NT Racing Commission rules against Steven Brunker in dispute with Bet365 Australia

By Bookmakers Review24 June 2013
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The Northern Territory Racing Commission issued a ruling in the dispute brought by Australian punter Steven Brunker against Bet365 Australia, finding that the Darwin-based bookmaker had reasons to limit the payout as evidence called the integrity of greyhounds race in question. "Bet365 conducted themselves in a manner consistent with the expectations of the Racing Commission and within their Terms and Conditions as approved by the Commission."

But lets' take a step back and look at the facts from the beginning.

On 27 July 2012, the Bet365 account of Steven Brunker was used to place a series of complex First Four bets on the second race of the day at Ipswich Greyhounds.

One of the bets placed won $73k and caused Bet365 to enforce limitations of the payout that caused the account holder to submit a complaint to the Northern Territory Racing Commission. But as he did so, information started to emerge bringing the integrity of the race and validity of the winning bet into question.

The Northern Territory Racing Commission considered central to the dispute determning the background to the opening of Mr Brunker’s Bet365 betting account, which was opened on July 18 with an initial deposit of just $100. On July 24 a further $5,000 were deposited into the account and on July 25 one 5 dollars bet was placed on a greyhound race.

Then on July 27, a series of First Four bets were placed covering all but two, Octane Moment and Finished Forcer, of the eight greyhounds in the second race at Ipswich Greyhounds. The bets, placed just 30 second before the start of the race, included a total of 624 combinations for a total wagered on the race of $4992.

One of the $5 bets guessed the winning combination right: 3-5-4-8.

With a dividend of $14,632.60, it would have returned Mr Brunker $73,163. But Bet365 informed the punter that they intended to enforce the Home TAB rule that limited the payment to $4720, then raised as a "goodwill gesture" to $4992, the total amount wagered by Mr Brunker on the race.

At this point, Mr Brunker lodged his complaint with the NT Racing Commission clearly stating that he wanted to be paid in full and not just have his bets refunded.

The Racing Commission launched an investigation and one of the first details revealed was that that despite Mr Brunker maintained that the bets placed on his account were for his sole benefit and profit, he had instructed his son, Mr Matthew Brunker, who was in Thailand, to place the bets on his behalf.

Bet365 eventually discovered that the bets had not been placed from a computer in Thailand, but were placed using a computer in Sydney, which Bet365 identified through its IP as having been used before to open an account in the name of Mr Bradley Canty.

Canty's betting account had been closed by Bet365, which has a record of the punter being dissatisfied with the decision.

Pressed by the Racing Commission, when asked to identify the individual who placed the bets using his account, Brunker admitted that he was "a guy by the name of Brad Candy or Canty."

Then Brunker eventually admitted that his son, Matthew Brunker, had given him the names of the two dogs that were very slow having their first race start.

"I was advised that a week or two earlier by my son who, on a regular basis gives me tips about dogs that are going fast or, in this case, dogs that weren’t going real fast," Brunker told the Commission.

The counsel for Bet365 suggested to the Racing Commission that Steven Brunker had in fact been recruited by his son and Mr Canty to act as a "bowler", which indicates an individual who places bets on behalf of another who would in the normal course of events be unable to do so.

"The volume and style of bet on the 27th of July 2012 is typical of a very experienced gambler and one who is especially familiar with greyhound racing. Placing large bets so soon before the race is going to be run is also normal practice for those attempting to manipulate the pool," Bet365 told the Commission.

Because of the nature of the bets, their amounts, complexity and timing, but in particular considering the computer used to place the bets, Bet365 said the bets should not be considered lawful.

"We say there are significant question marks over all of the bets that were placed using the account in the name of Mr Brunker on the 27th of July last year. And in light of those questions, we submit that the Commission should declare that it cannot be satisfied, on balance, that this was a lawful bet," stated Bet365.

Meanwhile the Queensland Stewards, that had charged the two dogs Octane Moment and Finished Forcer with failing to pursue, discovered that the owner of the two greyhounds, Stephen Kutnjak, was an associate of Matthew Brunker, having previously trained greyhounds for him.

But while both the NT Racing Commission and the Queensland Stewards investigations pointed to a fixed race and a betting coup, Bet365 revealed some very interesting piece of information regarding Bradley Canty, whose personal betting account had been closed by the Bet365 trading department due to it being uneconomical.

On July 24, Canty had threatened during a phone call to inform the Northern Territory government and the media of the practice of Bet365 to close betting accounts deemed uneconomical.

Two days later, on July 26, Canty piled on the threat when he told a Bet365 telephone operator that he was going to open multiple new accounts.

And on July 27, 90 minutes before the 2nd race at Ipswich, Canty warned a Bet365 telephone operator: "You want to keep your guards up. That’s all I am going to say."

As highlighted by the Racing Commission, if we disregard the obvious motive of profit to explain the actions of the group of individuals linked in this matter, a plausible case can be made for Mr Canty having a personal axe to grind with Bet365 and trying to mete some revenge on the bookmaker's business.

Irregardless of the real motive behind the betting coup, Brunker, who repeatedly referred to himself as a mug punter and claimed that the involvement of others was incidental, subsidiary and serendipitous, was described by Racing Commissioner David Brooker to be "devious, extremely unreliable, insincere, careless, fake and prone to fabricate."

The Commission "considers that Mr Steven Brunker, Mr Matthew Brunker and Mr Brad Canty are so inextricably linked in the process of placing the wager, such that mere coincidence cannot be entertained as a defense and as such their collective conduct makes the wager not lawful."

"The portrayal of events that the above facts and sequence of events articulate simply do not support any other conclusion other than that the wager was purposefully placed and that it was so placed with certainty. It had nothing to do with luck."

"In summary and to be clear, the Commission is of the view that the conduct of Bet365 in relation to invoking the use of clauses that limit their losses in certain circumstances was valid and reasonable. Further, there is before the Commission enough evidence to suggest that the event upon which the wagers were placed was impugned to the point where the integrity of the event is clearly in question. This further enlivens grounds for Bet365 to limit their payout to Mr Brunker under their Terms and Conditions."

Pierluigi Buccioli