LOTTERY DISPUTE

REPORTER: BRYAN SEYMOUR

It's the costly way to lose that winning feeling. A lucky couple couldn't believe it when they rubbed away a panel to reveal their $100,000 prize.But their excitement was short-lived. The biggest gambling operator in Australia decided they didn't want to pay out. So the case went to Federal Court and that's where things got really out of hand.It was a $100,000 winning instant Scratchy ticket based on the game Pictionary. In any panel, you needed to match the word with the picture to win the prize.

The word "BATHE"... matches the picture of the person swimming... which equals $100,000. "I grew up with bathe means was to swim and as soon as the word came out I should see someone swimming hopefully to get some sort of prize", said Bale Kuzmanovski, who was given the ticket as a birthday present from his wife in 2007.

"I had to count the zeroes a number of times to make sure, even though it said $100,000 -- I nearly fell off my chair," Bale said.Bale and Elizabeth hoped to use the money to reduce the mortgage and visit a grandmother overseas. But with officials refusing to pay out, they first had to see a lawyer, and then take it to the Federal Court. "If I didn't think I was going to win this in court, I wouldn't have proceeded," Bale said.

Three years and thousands of dollars later, a Federal Court judge decided in favour of the family, ordering Tattersalls-owned New South Wales Lotteries to pay the $100,000, plus interest, plus costs.Lottery bosses had decided the word "BATHE" should match a picture of a bath tub! Every dictionary lists 'bathe' as meaning 'to swim', that's why the Federal Court ruled the lotteries bosses out of order. Yet, this Goliath isn't about to let this little couple stand up for themselves.

Tatts Lotteries CEO Bill Thorburn is refusing to accept the umpire's decision. Determined to 'scratch out' this little player he's appealing the Judge's decision to the Full Bench of the Federal Court. So, why even buy a Scratchie -- you win and then they won't pay the money and they appeal it when a Federal Court Judge says they should pay the money?

Bill Thorburn, CEO Tatts Lotteries said, "I have said to you that this is under court action, so I am not going to undertake a court action here". "At this stage we have determined that this is a non-winning ticket and let the court decide", he added. But the court has decided. The profit on this year's revenue of $.298billion for the group, is $119million and Dick McIlwainway the CEO and Managing Director of Tatts Group has an annual salary just nudging $3million. "We are here to talk about the integrity of our games we hold that very dearly… we are not here to talk about me, we are here to talk about our players", Bill said.

Bill Thorburn makes $500,000 and Tattersalls control 80% of Australia's lottery market. They sell Lotto and Scratchies in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia. They have pokies, online, overseas and numerous other interests. What these people are asking for and what the judge agrees they deserve surely wouldn't even put a dent in the old Tattersals back pocket "We are licensed by the Government to operate the games in accordance with the Legislation and the rules", Bill said.

"Well I just dismiss that as rubbish 0-- I mean NSW Lotteries stuffed up and they should have paid up. Now they are using the course to get out of paying the prize", said Professor Frank Zumbo, University of New South Wales Business Law Associate Professor. Professor Zumbo thinks Tattersalls is treating these winners with outright contempt. "It is clear to me that Tattersals and NSW Lotteries are acting like corporate bullies. They stuffed up in the design of the game and as a result they just want to use the courts to try and avoid paying the prize," Professor Zumbo said.

"This sends a message to all players around Australia that companies like Tattersals will go to extreme lengths not to play on a prize where Tattersals doesn't want to pay up," Professor Zumbo said. "Everyone that plays Scratchies will feel for this couple," he added.

The Kuzmanovski's can't bear to play Scratchies anymore. They suggest we all boycott Scratchies until they get justice; that it might be the only way to convince the mega-rich managers at Tattersalls sometimes even they can lose. "The little punter having a go against them for their error… they can't have that," Bale said.The appeal in that case is due in six months. Well keep you posted.