Case Summaries

The Star Entertainment QLD Ltd v Wong Yew Choy and another matter (Case Summary)

7 July 2020

Case summary

Suit No 3 of 2019 (HC/Summons No 2109 of 2019 and SIC/Summons No 35 of 2019)
The Star Entertainment QLD Ltd v Wong Yew Choy and another matter [2020] SGHC(I) 15

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Decision of the Singapore International Commercial Court

Outcome: The SICC dismisses the Plaintiff’s application for summary judgment under Order 14 of the Rules of Court (Cap 322, R 5, 2014 Rev Ed) and allows the Defendant’s strike out application under O 18 r 19 on the grounds that the sums claimed are for gambling losses incurred by the Defendant in Queensland, Australia, and that the claim also falls foul of s 5(2) of the Civil Law Act (Cap 43, 1997 Rev Ed).

Facts and procedural history

1          The Plaintiff provided gaming services and operated a casino called The Star Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. The Defendant is a Singapore citizen who was a patron at that casino. The Plaintiff claimed that the Defendant had agreed to the use of a “Blank Replacement Cheque” provided to The Star Sydney but this was dishonoured when completed by the Plaintiff. The Plaintiff also claimed that the Defendant had, by the time he departed from The Star Gold Coast on 2 August 2019, owed about AUD 43 million. The Defendant sought to defend the claim on the basis of an oral agreement in which both parties agreed that he was not liable to pay the Plaintiff for any losses incurred up to 30 July 2018. The Defendant further maintained that (a) the Blank Replacement Cheque had been issued without his authority; and (b) the Plaintiff could not bring an action to recover money won on a wager because of s 5(2) of the Civil Law Act.

The decision

2          The Judge found that there were issues of fact which could not be determined on a summary judgment application without testing the evidence of witnesses in cross-examination. In particular, there were direct conflicts of evidence on two aspects of the defence. The first concerned the purported oral agreement which turned on the meetings between the parties on 30 July 2018 and 1 August 2018. The second dispute pertained to the alleged lack of authority to complete the cheque. In this respect, there was a conflict between the Defendant and the Plaintiff. Ordinarily, in the case of an oral agreement, the accuracy and truthfulness of affidavit evidence can only be determined when that evidence is tested in cross-examination, unless there are clear and overwhelming reasons to show that such an agreement could not have been reached: see at [16][26].

3          The third ground of the Defendant’s defence, relying on the terms of s 5(2) of the Civil Law Act, was also relied on by the Defendant to strike out the Plaintiff’s claim. The Plaintiff correctly recognised that if the claim was made on a cheque which represented a sum of money payable in respect of a wagering transaction, and s 5(2) applies to bar a claim for the money in respect of that wagering transaction, the claim on the cheque would similarly be barred: see at [30].

4          The Civil Law Act is a “procedural statute” in that it applies to the bringing of proceedings in the Singapore regardless of the proper law which governs the claim, in particular, whether that claim is made in contract or under the equivalent of the Bills of Exchange Act in another jurisdiction. This is made clear from the words of s 5(2) itself, and the decisions of G P Selvam J in Star Cruise Services Limited v Overseas Union Bank Limited [1999] 2 SLR(R) 183 (“Star Cruise”) and the Court of Appeal in Star City Pty Ltd v Tan Hong Woon [2002] 1 SLR(R) 306 (“Star City”). The Court of Appeal also makes clear in Poh Soon Kiat v Desert Palace Inc [2010] SLR 1129 (“Desert Palace”) that the legislation has created specific exceptions to the application of ss 5(1) and 5(2) of the Civil Law Act: at [36]–[53].  

5          The Plaintiff’s plea that the public policy of Singapore does not require s 5(2) to be applied must be rejected. An exemption from s 5(2) of the Civil Law Act cannot be justified in light of Desert Palace. The clear words of s 5(2) must apply, which is also made apparent by Star Cruise and the Star City, as well as [22] of Liao Eng Kiat v Burswood Nominees Limited [2004] 4 SLR(R) 690. The Court cannot therefore countenance an action brought in respect of sums purportedly won on the wagers laid by the Defendant in Queensland, Australia. Hence, the Plaintiff’s claim discloses no reasonable cause of action, this being a sum which falls foul of s 5(2) of the Civil Law Act. The strike out application was therefore granted: at [54][58].

 

This summary is provided to assist in the understanding of the Court’s grounds of decision. It is not intended to be a substitute for the reasons of the Court. All numbers in bold font and square brackets refer to the corresponding paragraph numbers in the Court’s grounds of decision.