Brain Injury Compensation Led to £210,000 Gambling Addiction

Young man with head trauma
Man spends all his compensation money on gambling after brain injury.

30-second summary

  • 23-year-old compensated for life-altering brain injury with £210,000
  • All the money is believed to have been gambled away
  • Victim wants his money back, blaming brain-injury and mental health problems
  • Gambling Commission to launch a consultation to avoid further cases

An unnamed young man, who was awarded £210,000 ($274,000) in compensation after a brutal attack on a night out left him with a brain injury, has launched a legal case after gambling away his compensation money. He claims that ten years later, after he discovered the world of online casinos, the entire sum of money is gone.

The victim has appealed to all of the platforms he lost his money to and some, but not all, have refunded his money. The Gambling Commission has been called to intervene in such individual cases by the Campaign for Fairer Gambling.

Gambling away his compensation

In 2008, when he was just 23 years old, the male was viciously attacked while on a night out. After suffering a severe brain injury, it became evident that any hope of living life to the full again was not to be. A compensation package of £210,000 was awarded.

When he visited his first casino just three years ago, the victim alleged that his gambling addiction was born and he fed it with visits to online casinos, losing around £60,000 ($78,420) in just two goes at one online casino. Now the entire £210,000 is completely gone.

Speaking to 5 Live Investigates, he said, “The money was there to protect me, get myself a house, get myself back on track, but unfortunately I’ve made a huge mistake. It’s a compulsive decision that I make and I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve had this awful thing happen to me, I’ve wasted time and I’ve lost money that’s supposed to help me and it’s ruined my life. I’m not doing this because I enjoy it, it’s an addiction. I know that I’m not going to win money, but it’s an illness.”

“Give me my money back!”

With failed efforts, he has attempted to regain the money by appealing to the four companies he lost his money to. The victim has tried to explain his circumstances — brain injury, mental health issues, and gambling addiction — but not all operators have been understanding.

The victim said, I don’t understand why the companies that have taken large sums of money won’t give me my money back when I’ve joined Gamstop, got proof of a mental health condition, and given them evidence of my brain injury.”

Three of these companies, Nektan, Bear Group, and Every Matrix refused to comment on this individual case. Nektan responded by saying the case is under investigation, but emphasized that “compliance with regulatory measures was its top priority and that the company invested time and resources into ensuring their systems were as robust as possible, with a particular emphasis on the most vulnerable gamblers.”

Bear Group would not specify the security procedures carried out on its players but insisted that they had been performed. Every Matrix said it had a team in place to spot problem-gambling and were trained in interacting with these players. The fourth company, Netbet refused to respond.

Seeking Help

The victim registered with Gamstop in July 2018. Gamstop is an independent service that offers addicted gamblers the option of excluding themselves from online gambling for a specific length of time. This can range from 6 months up to 5 years. These restrictions can be fooled by a change of details, however, and not all operators are adhering to the rules.

Luke Griggs, of the brain injury charity Headway, has said, “This deeply worrying case, and many others like it, illustrates the vulnerability of brain-injury survivors to the addictive nature of gambling. A brain injury can leave survivors prone to impulsive behavior, impaired reasoning, and suffering from a lack of insight into how their brain injury affects them. These are often compounded by social isolation and can open the door to the high-risk world of gambling.

“This is a hugely well-resourced industry that could and should be doing so much more to identify and protect vulnerable people who do not possess the skills to fully recognize the dangers or comprehend the implications of their actions.”

According to The Gambling Commission, operators are responsible for taking charge in circumstances when it is apparent that a player’s behavior while gambling is worrisome and detrimental.

A spokesperson for the Commission stated, “Where we find operators failing to protect customers from gambling-related harm we will take tough action,” and they are launching a consultation with the lucrative industry to identify these issues with their customers.

However, Matt Zarb-Cousin, of the Campaign for Fairer Gambling has called for The Gambling Commission to take direct responsibility for cases such as these.

He said: “If a customer is gambling large sums of money, the companies need to determine what the source of funds is to be sure no money is being laundered or someone isn’t gambling with the proceeds of crime. If they did those checks, they would determine the customer is gambling money they can’t afford so they would be failing in their duties of social responsibility. The fact that [he] is a vulnerable person and his decision-making ability is impacted by his vulnerability means the Gambling Commission should take direct action against those operators who refuse to refund him.”