Victims of gambling addicts are suing Paddy Power Betfair and William Hill, two of the largest bookmakers in Europe for £1.5m ($1.9m). The suit charges that money that was stolen from them was spent at these bookmakers.
Problem gambling is becoming more and more of an issue. A lot of the people who fall into this trap have to lie and steal to get the money they need for gambling. This is why there are a lot of calls in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe for gambling advertising to be curtailed.
Italy has already approved a wide-ranging ban on all types of gambling ads, including sponsorships. Others, such as the United Kingdom, are taking smaller steps by banning gambling ads during sporting events that are televised live before 9 pm.
William Hill’s role in this case
The lawsuit alleges that William Hill did not meet its responsibility to stop problem gambling or to enact the necessary anti-money laundering rules.
In one stretch of six months, for example, a single gambler (who was not named) wagered over £650,000 ($823,000) and lost almost £150,000 ($190,000) at two different William Hill retail bookmakers.
On two separate occasions, that gambler was allowed to place bets totaling over £50,000 ($63,000) on a single day, including bets of more than £1,000 ($1,267) on greyhound and horse races.
William Hill failed to see warning signs. The gambling shops in question even kept sports bags full of the gambler’s cash in their safe area. He could then use those funds when he placed a bet.
The person making these bets claimed that he was in the Dubai property sector. He was stealing funds from clients and spending it on gambling in the United Kingdom. If he ever returns to Dubai, he will face arrest for writing a check that he had no intention of honoring. He has been interviewed by the authorities in the UK but is not facing any charges because he is helping the victims of his crimes get compensation from William Hill.
The plaintiffs seek £600,000 ($760,000) in compensation from William Hill. The United Kingdom Gambling Commission is also investigating this matter.
William Hill says: “We are aware of a number of allegations by [name withheld] and have been waiting for months for them to be substantiated. We continue to await this information and note he has not been subject to any police investigation or prosecution with regards to the alleged thefts.”
Paddy Power’s legal troubles
The same law firm, Mackrell Turner Garrett, has also filed a suit against Paddy Power Betfair, seeking £965,000 ($1.2m) in compensation. The bookmaker has already been hit with a significant fine of £2.2m ($2.8m) from the UK Gambling Commission for not following anti-money laundering procedures and failing to protect players that were at risk. Five gambling addicts are involved in this case, one of whom stole money from a charity he was working for.
There are expectations that Paddy Power will voluntarily return funds to the victims, but there is no legal obligation to do so. The funds have not yet been returned, so the law firm is filing this lawsuit on behalf of the victims.
Problem gambling in the UK
Problem gambling has been increasing in the United Kingdom. A recent study by the UK Gambling Commission shows that over 430,000 adults in Britain are gambling addicts.
What is even more concerning is that this study shows that about 450,000 school children in the region place bets every week. Of these children, 70,000 are seen as at-risk gamblers, with 55,000 currently fitting the definition of problem gambling.