Aussie court rejects man's bid against RWS debt

Malaysian with Perth assets argues Aussie state law doesn't allow gambling on credit

A gambler with assets in Perth failed to shake off a debt of over $620,000, owed to Resorts World Sentosa (RWS), on grounds that Western Australian law does not allow gambling on credit which he used to chalk up the losses here.

The Western Australia (WA) Supreme Court dismissed the move, making clear that while many in Singapore and Western Australia may think it is morally and ethically wrong to allow credit for gambling, that is not the point.

"It cannot possibly be said Singapore is not entitled to make its own decision on that question," wrote Master Craig Sanderson of the WA Supreme Court in judgment grounds released last week.

Some countries' judicial systems have a Master. This is a judicial officer who usually deals with preliminary or short matters assigned from a judge's list of cases.

The case is significant in testing whether the Western Australia law that forbids credit gambling serves as grounds to stop any Singapore judgment on casino gambling from being recognised and enforced there.

RWS had taken the case to Perth to recover the debt owed by Mr Lim Soo Kok, a Malaysian who is understood to have assets in Australia. He had incurred losses when he visited RWS several times over four months prior to March 2013.

He had sought credit facilities, the terms of which included having to repay within seven days of drawing down. By March 2013, he owed $622,363. Talks followed and both parties agreed in August 2014 for him to repay thisin $50,000 monthly instalments.

But he reneged on the deal after the first instalment and RWS sued him in the Singapore High Court where it won a default judgment against him in December 2014.

His appeal failed and RWS then applied to register and enforce the judgment in Western Australia under reciprocal arrangements between the two judicial systems.

Mr Lim applied in the Perth court last month to set aside the move, arguing it was against public policy in the state - which meant the court could intervene and reject enforcement. But the judicial officer ruled that for the court to intervene, it was not enough to show Australian law would have produced a different result for the issue of gambling on credit compared to Singapore law.

While Western Australia law prohibits credit gaming, he said, such a prohibition does not "in any way" undermine the judgment obtained in Singapore. He said the Western Australia legislature exercised its power to enact laws to reflect its approach to gambling and the social problems it can cause, but it does not apply universally.

"A system which does allow the provision of credit for gambling is not so inherently evil as to render it contrary to public policy," he said. It was for Singapore to decide its stand on the question.

"Having made the decision, and having availed himself of that facility, public policy in Australia does not dictate that registration of the judgment be set aside," said Mr Sanderson.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 11, 2016, with the headline 'Aussie court rejects man's bid against RWS debt'. Print Edition | Subscribe