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High street bookmaker gags problem gambler with £100k payout

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High street bookmaker gags problem gambler with £100k payout after allowing him to wager more than £134,000 through online slot machines

  • High street bookies in the south-west settled out of court with the 32-year-old 
  • Bookmakers breached the Gambling Commission’s social responsibility code
  • Allowed him to bet despite showing ‘very obvious signs of problem gambling’ 

A high street bookmaker has paid £100,000 to a gambling addict on the condition that he does not report his case to the industry watchdog.

The ‘vulnerable’ gambler lost more than £134,000 playing roulette and blackjack on online slot machines while showing ‘very obvious signs of problem gambling’.

The company failed to intervene and did not question if the 32-year-old, who cannot be named, could afford his losses, even though they were ‘well beyond his means’, his solicitors said yesterday.

Solicitor Henrietta Dunkley and Partner Paul Kanolik of Ellis Jones solicitors, who represented the client

Solicitor Henrietta Dunkley and Partner Paul Kanolik of Ellis Jones solicitors, who represented the client 

He was treated like a VIP, given massive bonuses and provided with a personal account manager during the five years he was betting with the firm.

The bookmaker settled out of court after the man began legal action, but it made the customer sign a non-disclosure agreement, or gagging clause, preventing him from telling the Gambling Commission about his case.

The regulator provided an ‘industry warning notice’ in January saying legal settlements should never ‘prevent or deter a person from reporting misconduct’. Last night, it said this would break industry rules and lead to a fine as it demanded to see the NDA.

A spokesman said: ‘We have provided very clear guidance to the industry on what is and isn’t acceptable in terms of NDAs. If this individual, or his solicitors, do not think this guidance has been followed then we would ask them to contact us.’

Brian Chappell, of consumer group Justice For Punters, said: ‘If this legal documentation is stopping the customer going to the Gambling Commission, the regulator should be proactively finding out who the company is and fining them as they are breaking new regulations that came in this year.’

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The Mail has been campaigning for tighter gambling regulation, and exposed at the end of last year how bookmakers use gagging orders to avoid losing millions of pounds in fines.

The high street bookies settled out of court with the 32-year-old man who lost more than £134,000 playing roulette and blackjack on gaming machines

The high street bookies settled out of court with the 32-year-old man who lost more than £134,000 playing roulette and blackjack on gaming machines

Solicitor Henrietta Dunkley, who acted in the case, said: ‘This was an outstanding result in a high-value dispute with a major betting operator. It’s the highest that we’ve had of this type.

‘Our client had shown very obvious signs of problem gambling for a considerable amount of time and was spending far beyond his means.’ The high-value case comes just a day after a MPs called for a radical overhaul of online gambling laws.

The recommendations include restrictions on VIP accounts, which lure big losers by offering thousands in cash bonuses, a personal account manager and free tickets to various events. The report led to more than £1billion being wiped off the value of the UK’s largest listed gambling firms. In an attempt to ward off threats of tighter legislation, gambling companies – including Bet365, Paddy Power, Betfair and Ladbrokes announced measures to protect vulnerable gamblers.

In a move co-ordinated by a new industry body, the Betting and Gaming Council, the biggest firms will implement a code of conduct on promotions and bonuses and try to create a gambling addicts’ database.

They will fund research into the effectiveness of the ban on live sports advertising. And they promised a new code of conduct on sports sponsorship and advertising. The companies will also provide funding for a national programme to educate children about gambling-related harms.

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