A Wollongong teacher allegedly spent half of his lessons running a soccer betting club instead of educating his HSC students, a court has heard.
Phil Saunders, who has been placed on alternative duties that don't involve teaching, is this week fighting a series of charges including gambling with minors at Wollongong Local Court.
The hearing was part-heard in October last year and continued on Monday.
Three of Saunders' former students, who cannot be named due to their age at the time, took to the stand to provide details on how the alleged betting syndicate operated.
The court heard Saunders and Year 12 students would allegedly punt on English Premier League games weekly, with bets starting at 20 cents.
One witness said Saunders spent "50 per cent" of each lesson focusing on it.
"There was gambling in the classroom most of the lessons, and that was not part of our Year 12 syllabus," the witness said.
"I sat next to someone who was involved in it.
"It was a whole class spectacle, there was a whiteboard with names and all of our attention would be on it during the lesson.
"As we would watch every week in class, it would entice more students to play."
The witness said she saw Saunders' name included on the whiteboard, with a table of student's names and what team they tipped filled in each week.
"Money was then put forward," the witness said, adding that she saw $2 coins on tables in the classroom.
All three witnesses did not recall seeing Saunders physically collecting money from the students.
However they did hear him initiate discussions about gambling.
"I heard with absolute certainty that money was being discussed," one witness said.
"Students would take (coins) out of their pockets and put them on Mr Saunders desk," another witness said.
Two witness said they didn't know who made the entries on the whiteboard and couldn't recall whether they ever saw Saunders writing on it.
The court previously heard some students confided in another PDHPE teacher in March 2021 about the alleged betting operation.
Saunders has also pleaded not guilty to two counts each of indecent assault of a person under 16 and aggravated indecent assault of a person under his authority.
The court heard he will face a separate hearing in relation to these charges, which may commence at the end of this week.
The Department of Education has confirmed Saunders "has been placed on alternative duties which do not involve teaching".
"Wellbeing support for students was provided at the time and is ongoing," a spokesperson said.
The hearing continues.
Read more Illawarra court and crime stories here.
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