agreed to payments in return for a pledge not to inform watchdog
One of Britains biggest bookmakers agreed to
pay £1m to the victims of a problem gambler who had stolen the money he
was using to bet, in return for a pledge not to inform the industry regulator.
Ladbrokes showered the gambling addict with thousands of pounds-worth
of gifts over two years including free tickets to football matches and
business class flights.
The gambler, a British citizen who ran a
property business in Dubai, later admitted to having stolen from his clients in
order to fund his high-roller habit, which cost him up to £60,000 in a
After five of his victims made a complaint against Ladbrokes for
allegedly accepting stolen funds, the bookmaker agreed to pay them a combined
sum of £975,000.
But according to a settlement agreement seen by
the Guardian, Ladbrokes demanded that they agree not to bring any
complaint or make any report to any regulator in relation to the claim in
order to receive the money.
The industry regulator, the Gambling
Commission, which typically does not comment on individual cases, said:
We are enquiring into this matter to ascertain the full circumstances.
We have clear expectations of all operating and individual
personal management licence holders, we expect them to work with us in an open
and cooperative way including the need to disclose to us anything which we
would reasonably expect to know.
A spokesman for Ladbrokes said:
We are cooperating with the Gambling Commission where necessary and have
no comment to make at this time.
Text messages and photo evidence
passed to the Guardian reveal the extent to which Ladbrokes offered the
gambling addict generous incentives, a common practice in the industry designed
to ensure the loyalty of high-rollers.
It lavished him with corporate
hospitality, including free tickets to Arsenal games, four tickets to see the
Floyd Mayweather v Marcos Maidana boxing match in Las Vegas and an invitation
to the company box at Royal Ascot.
On one occasion, emails seen by the
Guardian indicate that the company agreed to pay for business class return
flights from Dubai to London, worth more than £2,000, so that he could
attend the north London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham.
company also sent him Fortnum & Mason hampers at Christmas and placed a
birthday gift of £3,500 credit in his account, as well as regular gifts
of free bonus chips, to be used to place bets.
continued to arrive during and after a period in which records seen by the
Guardian show that he stopped placing bets for five months.
to have told his account manager at the start of this hiatus that he feared he
had a gambling problem and was trying to give up, although there is no
documentary evidence of the discussion.
Text messages exchanged between
the gambler and an account manager who was personally assigned to him raise
concerns about the companys compliance with regulatory requirements
designed to prevent problem gambling and money-laundering.
a condition of gambling firms licences to operate, call on them to check
the source of funds of customers placing large bets.
In one message
seen by the Guardian, the account manager wrote: Dont know if you
know about this but there is a new law in place imposed by the Gambling
Commission to have on file provenance of funds from its top customers.
He goes on to ask for a bank statement showing the addicts income
to comply with the regulators policy. When he didnt
receive a response, the account manager wrote: Dont worry mate
wont need this now.
As the gambler wrestled with his
addiction, a fresh text message from the account manager arrived that read:
Just checking no issues your side mate as notice you havent played
with us for two weeks.
When he again received no reply the
Ladbrokes employee wrote: Morning mate, Ive put a £5k bonus
in your sports account for you.
He followed that up with details
about a Christmas hamper from Fortnum & Mason, followed by another text to
check that the hamper had arrived.
The flurry of text messages arrived
within weeks of the gambler losing £60,000 in one day with the bookmaker.
The gambler, who asked for anonymity to protect his children, said:
The scary thing is that the increase in time and money I spent gambling
was huge. I cannot believe it was not noticed and checked. I should have been
To make matters worse, Ladbrokes made me a part
of a settlement that I never wished to be a part of and I had to leave rehab to
sign it. I never asked or received a penny, I lost my home, my family and my
company because of my gambling.
He said he had broken the terms
of the settlement because he believed it was in the public interest to do so.
I hope by me reporting this to the Gambling Commission that some
of the victims rightfully get their full money back, but also that this shows
them that the operator has no respect for their codes of practice.
He is still receiving treatment for his addiction from the Gordon Moody
Several major bookmakers have been hit with multi-million
pound fines, or voluntary payments in lieu of fines, for failures relating to
money-laundering and problem gambling controls.
The regulator has
extracted millions of pounds in penalties from firms including William Hill,
Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, 888 and SkyBet after hardening its stance on regulatory
Several of the cases related to VIP gamblers, who
typically receive free gifts, hospitality and preferential treatment to ensure
loyalty because of the amount of money they stake, and lose, with the companies
they prefer to bet with.