A 35-year-old finance director has pleaded guilty to theft after it was found that he stole more than £1m from his employer to fund his gambling addiction.
Steven Girling could receive as many as five years in prison following the deliberations of Norwich Crown Court.
During the period in which he was stealing these funds, he was struggling with a serious gambling addiction and was even on the brink of suicide. Over the course of three years, he would bet as much as £50,000 each day on different online slots and roulette.
Living like a millionaire
This case highlights just how serious gambling addiction can be. It seems that every week there are stories in the media of people stealing funds from their employers to fuel their addictions.
However, when the going seemed to be good, the defendant and his family were living like millionaires. They stayed in five-star hotels in Dubai and attending the Cheltenham Gold Cup with VIP tickets.
During the three years in which Girling was wagering as much as £50,000 a time on online slots, with three different online casino operators, none of them asked any questions about his behavior.
Talking about his case, he said: “It was clear from my patterns of play I was addicted.”
Girling has already pleaded guilty to the charges of theft and knows that he is likely to be facing a prison sentence in the new year.
This case highlights some serious questions about the online gambling sector.
Online platforms’ VIP programs
In recent times, a lot of gambling platforms have been using VIP programs to try and ensure that their high rollers keep spending. They offer them the luxury free holidays and tickets to sporting events to keep them gambling.
Girling was struggling to turn away these gifts, which was why he was depositing £50,000 in a single day at one stage. He thought that when he made deposits of double his salary in the space of 24 hours, it would start to ring alarm bells at the online gambling platform.
However, this was not the case and his addiction continued.
Some of the perks he received as part of the VIP program include getting VIP tickets to an NFL game at Wembley and tickets to football matches. In one of these games, involving Everton FC, his daughter even presented the man of the match award.
When Girling was losing big online, he was often given gifts worth in the region of £500 to try and ease this pain.
He said that gambling sites’ VIP programs are in reality a “priority… to ensure if you are still actively playing on a gaming site, it is with us”.
He believes that these programs might be a contributing factor to gambling addiction.
Death or prison
At one stage his account manager was automatically enrolling him in competitions.
Eventually, Girling got to the stage where he thought there were two options facing him – death or prison. He says that he was close to choosing death in relation to the free trips – he was lying to his spouse, saying that he had won a competition for an all-expenses trip to Dubai.
Arrest and court hearing
In January 2018 Girling gave resigned from his job as chief finance officer at the Premier Education group, a company for sports education. After he quit, the company discovered the theft and called the police.
When he was arrested, he sent complaints to the online platforms he had been using. In response to one of these complaints, he got an email that said: ‘The activity on your account was not such that any action from a social responsibility perspective was required.’
So far, Girling has been able to repay £112,000 to his employer and he is selling his house to try repay more of the stolen money. His spouse is sticking by him.
He is finally getting to grips with this addiction. In January, he will be sentenced to a spell in prison.
Girling’s case highlights how easy the spiral into heavy addiction can be. This is particularly the case when someone has access to substantial funds, such as Girling did. A lot of people are now calling for the introduction of further restrictions on VIP gambling programs to ensure that they are not facilitating problem gambling.