Taxman wants slice of $17m Cup win
- by:Brent Zerafa
- From:The Daily Telegraph
- July 25, 2012 12:00am
Corey Brown rides Shocking to win the 2009 Melbourne Cup. Picture: George SalpigtidisSource: Herald Sun
ZELJKO Ranogajec, recognised as one of the world’s biggest punters, won a staggering $17 million with his mates across the Melbourne Cup carnival in 2009.
The enormity of Ranogajec’s punting group, which bets $2 billion annually, has been detailed by one of its own with Tasmanian David Walsh lifting the lid on their success from three years ago.
Walsh, who funded and built the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart with his winnings, said rising monthly costs to establish MONA led to the group upping the ante during the 2009 Melbourne Cup, won by Shocking.
“It’s a story I haven’t told before, but it kind of touches on the risk aspect,” he told the ABC’s Lateline.
“In – just before the Melbourne Cup in 2009 I was accruing bills at the rate of about $5 million a month to build MONA and it got compressed up a bit, they were coming in faster than I expected, and I couldn’t pay them. And obviously I’ve never told the builders this because – but, think I discussed this with Zeljko, my gambling partner, and he said, ‘Well, we can’t make it any worse, so why don’t we go crazy on the Cup?’ . . . And we bet three or four times bigger than we usually do.
“We got lucky and we, over the Cup period, I think won about I think $16 or $17 million, which kept this place on the agenda.
“So, yes, I mean, gambling is my nature and – you look at this place (MONA) and it’s here at, you know, it seems inevitable, but, you know, lot of people have a lot of plans and you have to get lucky to be able to bring them to fruition.”
The multi-millionaire businessman is concerned he will no longer be able to fund the Hobart tourist destination after the Australian Tax Office ruled the gambling syndicate is a business.
Walsh and his mates, including Ranogajec, are liable for $900 million in unpaid tax according to the ATO.
Walsh himself has been hit with a bill for $37 million and is fighting the case in the Federal Court next month.
Former ATO auditor Chris Seage told Lateline; “If your operation has got $2.4 billion annual turnover, employs 300 people around Australia and started three service companies up to provide the punters club members with information like analysis and form, then I think you’re looking at more than a hobby.”
The ATO claims the professional nature of the group’s activities means the usual rule that gambling winnings are tax-exempt do not apply.
Ranogajec, seen as the king-pin of the group of mathematical geniuses, is reported to have won a record $7.5 million Keno jackpot at North Ryde RSL in 1994.