No doubt, Australian gambling endured a turbulent 2015.
The country’s online laws were called into question, sportsbetting sites got a slap on the wrist in the courts, and Aussie poker players continued to dominate on the big stage.
But who came out on top, and who was left scrabbling around for a bankroll?
Let’s take a look back at the biggest winners and losers of 2015.
The Big Winners…
January is always a busy month in the gambling calendar.
The Australian Open tennis came to Melbourne, and this year the Aussies hosted the Cricket World Cup.
It was an all-antipodean affair in the MCG final, with Australian beating their New Zealand cousins.
Manny Mans Up At Aussie Millions
But over at the Crown Casino, the Aussie Millions was crowning homegrown champions of a different sort.
In the Main Event, local cash player Manny Stavropoulos won his first major title and a sweet little payout worth AUD1,385,000.
For Aussie poker purists it was the perfect finale to a Main Event that had witnessed 642 runners from across the world turn out. The festival also enjoyed a six-week run on Aussie television.
There was more Aussie success as Alex Trevallion took down the High Roller tournament for a AUD645,000 payday. The future of Australian poker beat the formidable German pro, Tobias Renkemeier for his biggest career win by some distance.
And Australia used the Aussie Millions to mark the country’s latest inductee to the Poker Hall of Fame. Since 2009 Australia has had its own hall of fame to honour the legends of the game.
Van Marcus, the former APPT champion, now joins an illustrious list that includes Jeff Lisandro and Joe Hachem.
Aussies ‘Scoop’ A Few Titles On PokerStars
It wasn’t all live wins for the Aussies in 2015. Australian players took home almost AUD2.6 million at the Spring Championship of Online Poker on PokerStars, with Tom “tollgate” Grigg scoring the biggest win of all.
The Aussie player’s AUD796,645 win in the $1,050 Main Event was the best online result for an Australian in years.
British Pokies Players Makes History With Record Win
On the pokies front, a British soldier was celebrating a £13.2 million (AUD28.5 million) when he hit the jackpot on progressive pokie, Mega Moolah.
Jon Heywood only bet 25p (54c) on the popular pokie game when his luck came up. The pokie’s top jackpot had been steadily rising without a win for months, and the win marked a world record for an online pokie jackpot.
…And the Big Losers
Not everyone could claim to be a winner in the year of 2015 though, somebody had to come up busted in the end and there were quite a few candidates.
There were Poker pros riding sky high one moment and then busted wide open then next. Scandals involving theft of public funds and of course there is always the pokies to talk about.
Let’s find out who qualified as the biggest losers below.
Rast Wins $250,000 in Melbourne…Then Loses the Lot
While the local talent was ripping up the Aussie Millions in Melbourne, there were mixed fortunes for the visiting US pros.
Spare a thought, then, for online superstar Brian Rast. The American pro managed to blow AUD250,000, virtually his entire Main Event winnings that week.
Rast had come fifth in the Aussie Millions Main Event for a AUD315,000 payday. However, most of that disappeared when he took to the Crown Poker Room a few days later for the AUD250,000-buyin LK Boutique tourney.
Some of the world’s biggest players had turned out for the Aussie Millions high roller event, including Phil Ivey and Patrik Antonius. But the quarter-of-a-million drop was peanuts compared to Rast’s lifetime earnings – around $10 million at the last count.
Sydney Swindler Arrested In the US
The same month that Brian Rast was busy taking down (and losing) mega fortunes, an Aussie businessman was arrested in the United States following a massive swindle.
Problem gambler Jason Graham Boatwright had been on the run for years after embezzling AUD7 million of company funds to feed a pokies addiction.
A joint manhunt involving Australian police and the FBI finally saw Boatwright taken down and he was arrested in Los Angeles.
South Australia Councillor Sent Down For Public Funds Theft
Embezzling wasn’t only reserved for big-time businessmen in 2015.
Some more common types of gamblers found themselves embroiled in some pretty interesting embezzling scandals also.
Including a councillor from SA, Bronwyn Jayne Warren, appeared in court in July for stealing AUD165,000 of public funds to feed a gambling addiction.
After pleading guilty on three charges of theft, Warren managed to avoid a custodial sentence, although all of the stolen funds must be paid back.
And Spare a Thought For the $50 Million Pokies Winner…
…who didn’t actually win a cent.
A 90-year-old pokies player from Illinois thought all her Christmas magic had come at once when she “won” a $41 million (AUD51 million) progressive jackpot in 2012.
The Isle Hotel Casino had always maintained that a machine glitch was at work, rather than any incredible luck on behalf of Pauline McKee.
Avoiding a massive payout, as well as certain bankruptcy, the Isle Casino won its day in court after a three-year battle. For Ms. McKee, she was left without a jackpot and substantial legal fees.
Online Gambling Laws To Be Reviewed
In 2015, the online gambling industry in Australia faced a shake-up after Tony Abbott ordered a review of the country’s gaming laws.
New Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, no stranger to controversy when it comes to gambling legislation, has reiterated his support for a review.
By the time you read this, we could know whether online casino players in Oz deserve to be included in our Winners or Losers list for the year.
Qantas Sucks Up The Loss and Wears ‘All Black’
And finally, let’s spare a thought for Qantas’s pilots and airline staff. Following a crazy Rugby World Cup prop bet, a New Zealand win in the RWC final meant Qantas pilots were forced to wear All Blacks jerseys on their morning flights following the match.
Sadly, the original prop bet of repainting the fleet of Qantas jumbo jets black wasn’t honoured.