Blames himself and betting operators
An Australian financial planner is facing possible prison time after losing AU$8m (US$5.6m) betting on sports. 41-year-old Gavin Fineff made a healthy living earning AU$130,000 (US$90,324) per year, but it was clients’ money that fueled his gambling habit.
Fineff told the Australia Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) that he is willing to go public with his story in order to possibly prevent others from spiraling into the same cycle of addiction. He lays most of the blame squarely on his own shoulders, but he also says that the betting companies should share in the responsibility, as they egged him on, knowing he was a problem gambler.
Ashamed, Fineff laments the pain he has caused people, adding:
My life is destroyed. I had to tell my wife that there’s a part of me that she had no idea about.”
Fineff has attended counseling and says he hopes he can repay the people he betrayed one day. And though it is too late for him, he also hopes that fundamental changes can be made to Australia’s betting industry so there are not more people like him in the future.
TAB never stopped him
It started when Fineff signed up with Australian betting site TAB. Before then, he casually bet on horse races with friends, but soon after he got involved with TAB, he was dubbed a VIP and showered with special offers and treatment. The promotions worked and he engaged in riskier and risker gambling behaviors, chasing losses and redepositing over and over.
Instead of checking in on him to make sure everything was ok, however, TAB kept offering Fineff more bonus bets and gifts.
“It was seductive. Very soon after that, I was addicted, completely addicted,” he told ABC.
Even while Fineff was losing millions, TAB was hit with a massive AU$45m fine by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) for anti-money laundering and know-your-customer failures.
When TAB asked him about his salary, he refused and his account was frozen. Relieved, he thought his gambling days were over.
Two more operators came calling
A few weeks later, Fineff received a call from a Ladbrokes representative, offering thousands of dollars in bonus bets if he would sign up. The rep was a former TAB employee who grabbed Fineff’s information on the way out, knowing he was a huge losing player.
To ease Fineff’s anxieties about being investigated, the Ladbrokes rep setup the account for him using a fake name. He proceeded to lose AU$700,000 (US$486,360) in 20 months.
Fineff lost AU$3.6m (US$2.5m) at BetEasy in 16 months
While Fineff was betting at Ladbrokes, in came another call from another former TAB employee, this time working at BetEasy. During that call, all taking place at his mailbox and not in front of a computer, BetEasy setup Fineff’s account, didn’t ask for identification or proof of income, and gave him $50,000 in bonus bets.
Spurred on by constant bonus bet offers, Fineff lost AU$3.6m (US$2.5m) at BetEasy in 16 months.
Expert says Australia needs better regulation
Lauren Levin from Financial Counselling Australia said this is a common practice in the online betting industry. Employees at different companies share information about “whales” with each other, even if those customers exhibit obvious problem gambling behavior.
“They are traded like property. It’s just unbelievable,” Levin told ABC.
She said a major problem is that there is no national gambling regulator in Australia. The Northern Territory Racing Commission has become the defacto regulatory agency, but it does not have the teeth that a national department would have.
Other countries, like the UK and France, have much stronger oversight, Levin said. Even then, though, problems still exist. Earlier this year, executives from some of the biggest gaming companies in the UK admitted to the House of Lords that they use a number of schemes like the ones used on Fineff to keep money flowing from VIP customers.