Customs & Excise threatened the Victor Chandler betting business with prosecution for Teletext ads inviting punters to use its offshore credit betting service.
Who: Victor Chandler International and HM Customs & Excise.
When: February 2000
Where: The High Court, London
Customs & Excise threatened the Victor Chandler betting business with prosecution for Teletext ads inviting punters to use its offshore credit betting service. VC applied to Chancery for a declaration that they were not breaching the Betting and Gaming Duties Act 1981, which criminalised the issue, circulation or distribution of "an advertisement or other document" aimed at UK residents and relating to the making of bets.
At first instance, the Court granted VC its declaration. The Judge held that since the Act created a criminal offence he had to interpret it strictly. "Advertisement or other document" meant that an advertisement had also to be a "document" to be caught and it clearly wasn't in the case of advertising taking the form of electronic impulses transmitted to a TV screen. But the Court of Appeal disagreed. The essential characteristic of a document was that it recorded information. Clearly the messages in question were advertisements and by containing the relevant information, VC's Computers, the Teletext central editing system, as well as the remote databases deployed in the process, could all be regarded as documents. Applying the "always speaking" principle of statutory construction and having satisfied itself that what VC was doing was plainly within the "mischief" the 1981 Statute was trying to prevent, the Appeal Judges felt able to classify the teletext ads as "documents" and found for Custom & Excise.
Why this matters:
This ruling represents a significant threat to the offshore betting industry. If Teletext is a document, why not ads on the net, the offshore betting industry's oxygen? No wonder VC are appealing to the House of Lords.