News & Insights

2 million reasons why you shouldn’t support Arsenal…?

Tom Maple, partner in the Dispute Resolution team, takes a closer look at the Gambling Act with reference to a recent High court case involving the Ritz in Mayfair and a high stakes gambler. 

Whilst 11 years old, the Gambling Act hasn’t resulted in much litigation. However, a recent case decided under the Act has shown the dangers of gambling, the money you can lose and the risks of watching Arsenal on a Saturday.

Mr Al-Geabury, a successful Swiss businessman reported to be worth over £1bn, recently hit the High Court after losing £2m in 2 hours in the Ritz casino playing roulette.

It all began one evening after watching Arsenal, following which Al-Geabury went to the Ritz casino in Mayfair and signed a cheque in exchange for £2m of roulette chips (it was subsequently returned unpaid). He, as you do, then went on what was described as a “frantic gambling spree”.

Mr. Al-Geabury claimed that he had lost the money as a result of a gambling addiction known to the Ritz and (for that and a variety of other reasons), said he should not have to repay the monies. In support of this, he relied on a voluntary self-exclusion agreement for life (“VSE”) which he had made with the Ritz in November 2009. However, almost a year later, the Ritz agreed with Mr Al-Geabury to cancel it following consultation with the Gambling Commission. Mr Al-Geabury contended that an agreement for life ie the VSE could not be terminated.

Experts agreed he was suffering from a gambling problem, Mr Al-Geabury disputed the Ritz’s claims on the grounds of his addiction and the previous VSL (amongst other things), and off they went to trial.

Like Arsenal in recent years, things did not go well for Mr Al-Geabury. Following an in depth analysis of his gambling records, the judge concluded that he had no gambling addiction at any time. Further, she disagreed with the contention that you could not cancel a VSE and concluded that, provided that it acted reasonably, as it had, a casino could agree to cancel it.

The Judge found firmly in favour of the Ritz and awarded Judgment in its favour. Like Arsenal, Mr Al-Geabury had to settle for 2nd place.

Footnote: In a slightly bizarre twist, Mr Al-Geabury was sentenced to concurrent ten month prison sentences for failing to pay the judgment as well as failing to comply with a worldwide freezing order. However, as far as is known, he remains free to watch Arsenal since he remains resident in Switzerland.

This article is provided free of charge for information purposes only; it does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. No responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by Field Seymour Parkes LLP.