February 6, 2015 – 11:21PM
Dispute: Former Socceroo Robbie Hooker is pursuing more than $600,000 in winnings he says he is owed by the TAB. The bookmaker says the confusion is down to a glitch in an out-of-date version of the TAB app. Photo: Brendan Esposito
In the 1990s Robbie Hooker was an uncompromising defender for a string of clubs in the old National Soccer League. He won 20 caps for the Socceroos, famously crying in the dressing room at the MCG after Australia’s World Cup qualifying dream was shattered against Iran in 1997.
That black night in Australian soccer history turned out to be the last of Hooker’s international career; he’d plough on for another five years as a professional, forging a hard-earned reputation for never taking a backward step if for nothing else.
It is an attribute the 47-year-old is exhibiting in another personal battle.
“I did place those bets and they offered those odds because of their faulty app”: Hooker. Photo: Craig Golding
Hooker is in a lengthy stoush with Tabcorp over claims of a faulty app, believing he is owed more than $600,000 by the wagering giant over bets he placed on the English Premier League that were never paid out.
Tabcorp see things differently, claiming the fault could only have arisen by someone deliberately manipulating an internet connection while placing a bet.
But back to the start.
Hooker’s bet receipt, which shows the wagers were placed on the EPL relegation market. Photo: Supplied
Hooker’s tale begins in early 2013, when he was still an assistant coach of the Socceroos under Holger Osieck.
A keen punter and follower of not only soccer but other sports, he was scrolling through the markets on the TAB app and used his index finger to call up the National Rugby League section, with round six of the competition approaching.
He honed in, in particular, on the match between Manly and Cronulla at Brookvale Oval and fancying the chances of the outsiders at an attractive first-half price he placed $500 on the Sharks to be ahead at half-time.
The error message that appeared after Hooker placed the bets, triggering the fault in the TAB app. Photo: Supplied
A bet receipt and transaction number flashed up on the screen, confirming the wager, but when Hooker navigated his way to his TAB account statement later he got a surprise. The bet had been listed not as a first-half option but for Cronulla to win straight out.
Hooker was miffed and dialled up the TAB. “I rang them up and at that point they said it can’t be changed or cancelled. They said ‘you must have made an error’,” he said. “So I went away and thought, ‘well, maybe I did make an error’. I must have pressed the wrong button.”
The issue nagged away at Hooker, though, and the next day he returned to the app, and suspecting there might be a problem with that particular market, scrutinised it closely. He couldn’t see the price he had been offered and bet on the previous day, but after an hour or so an error message popped up on his screen.
Hooker’s TAB account statement, which indicates the bets were placed on teams to win the English Premier League. Photo: Supplied
Hooker clicked OK on the message, and then noticed that the price for Cronulla to win the first half was suddenly the same as it had been the day before. He placed the bet again, but this time filmed the process on his phone. His account statement again said he’d bet on the Sharks head to head, not the first half.
Hooker says the TAB later refunded his money when he provided the video evidence – neither bet won, as Cronulla were behind at half-time and full-time – but the problem began occurring again and again. Bets he placed were not recorded as he intended them to be if he placed them directly after his internet connection had dropped out.
“From that time I knew that they had a problem with their app,” Hooker said. “But they were still accepting bets from the app, and there were still errors coming up. I wrote to them on a number of occasions saying, ‘here’s a bet receipt, you haven’t paid me’. They denied there were any problems with the app and they said their account statement was a true and correct record of all bets placed. So I just kept placing bets.”
In December of that year, he placed three of the six that are at the centre of the dispute. Hooker was flicking through EPL markets for the 2013-14 season and the error message came up. He clicked OK as usual, and perused the EPL section again.
“The market that came up was the relegation battle, which was ridiculous odds,” he said.
Teams such as Crystal Palace, Sunderland, West Ham, Cardiff City, Norwich City and Fulham were listed at $5001 to be relegated six months later, when in reality they should have been considered among the main contenders to go down.
Hooker got on. He filmed himself placing $20 on six of the clubs at long odds and watched the receipts flash up. A few weeks he later backed the same teams to be relegated again, with another $20 on each of them.
In May last year, Cardiff, Norwich and Fulham went down. Hooker had backed them twice each at $5001. The return would be $100,020 for each bet – a total of $600,120.
The bets, however, had appeared in Hooker’s account statement differently. It had recorded him as backing Cardiff, Norwich, Fulham and others at $5001 to win the EPL title. The TAB refused to pay out. Hooker, however, says he simply bet according to odds that were offered to him.
“Obviously they haven’t paid me for it because they reckon I haven’t placed those bets,” Hooker said. “Now, I did place those bets and they offered those odds because of their faulty app. But that’s not my problem.”
Fairfax Media has viewed several of Hooker’s videos, including one where he places a stopwatch in it in an effort to prove its authenticity. In it he places a bet in an overs-unders market on an NBA game between LA Lakers and Houston, but the account statement shows the bet to have been made on a game between San Antonio and Dallas. The fault seems to arise in the form of the category heading above the particular market changing erratically after the internet error message pops up. While the header changes, the odds listed below stay the same. With the internet connection down, Hooker is still able to manouevre his way to the “bet slip” stage, and when the connection is reestablished, to confirm the bet.
Hooker says he has taken the issue to the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing, concerned particularly at the TAB app only flashing up bet receipts on the screen and not issuing them to punters, and arguing that the fault he found could have unknowingly affected others.
The TAB does not believe that is the case. “Firstly, Tabcorp does not comment on individual customers,” a spokesman said. “Tabcorp has more than 300,000 active account customers and this is the only occurrence of this nature that we are aware of.
“Our digital team conducted exhaustive testing after this was brought to our attention in 2013. The error described could only be replicated on a version of the TAB app dating back to April 2013 by purposely interrupting the internet connection while constructing a bet. The TAB app was upgraded to eliminate any vulnerability and has subsequently been upgraded 20 times.
“Tabcorp has kept the relevant regulatory authorities informed throughout.”
With the TAB unwilling to pay him out Hooker has engaged a solicitor in an effort to see the cash he believes should be his.
He is not tackling soccer players any more. He hung up the boots after busting his achilles playing in the Northern Suburbs Premier League, and spends much of his time looking after his four-year-old twin boys.
With one more fight on his hands, he hopes this one does not turn out like that night against Iran.
Source : The Canberra Times