Four-year prison term
A gambling addict in the UK was able to lose £1.3m ($1.83m) worth of stolen funds by placing bets at online sportsbooks. Andy May was sentenced on Monday in the Norwich crown court to four years in prison for fraud. The 44-year-old admitted that he had siphoned over £1.3m from his employer while he was a senior manager. May had been earning over £50,000 ($70,533) each year while working for the outdoor clothing company Sealskinz.
some operators gave him incentives to continue betting
He was able to place thousands of wagers – some over £50,000 in size – across numerous sportsbooks, including BoyleSports, Betway, and Betfair, mostly online. Some operators gave him incentives to continue betting, including free bets and tickets to sports games. They reportedly did not do much to verify the source of funds or May’s ability to afford the bets until he had lost large sums.
Significant sums across different operators
The court heard that May had lost over £600,000 ($846,405) betting through Betway from January 2017 until January 2019. Of this figure, £461,000 ($650,321) was stolen. Betway only requested evidence of his wealth when he had already lost £116,000 ($163,638). May proceeded to doctor financial statements with Microsoft Paint, which Betway accepted.
At one point, May managed to go on a hot streak during a three-week period and built his balance up to £1.3m ($1.83m). He promptly lost this sum over 33 days. He lost £437,000 ($616,465) on Betfair, of which about £268,000 ($378,061) was stolen. At one point when he was not placing big bets, a VIP manager at Betfair messaged him, saying: “Long time no speak. I noticed you are depositing less than previously, is everything OK?”
Betfair staff eventually realized that May had lost a significant sum. They then requested evidence of funds and closed his account eight months later.
BoyleSports did not request proof of funds at all from May, despite him betting over £500,000 ($705,338) between March 28, 2017 and May 3, 2017. One of these bets was for £50,000 ($70,533) on a single South American soccer game. He got this account up to £240,000 ($338,562) at one point before losing it all. BoyleSports was still sending May free bet offers up to September 2020.
Eventually, May sent details of his betting habits to the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC). Speaking during the sentencing, Judge Anthony Bate said: “This case is a sad and salutary illustration of what can happen when an addiction to gambling runs in this way.”
Calls for change
Gambling campaigners believe that if there were more stringent regulations in place, May could have been prevented from moving from operator to operator to continue betting.
Campaign for Fairer Gambling’s Matt Zarb-Cousin believes that this particular case shows that operators should have to carry out verification checks at much lower loss limits. He also believes that having a secure database that can flag the behavior of single customers across different operators would be useful.
Betway said that it gave the funds back to Sealskinz
BoyleSports has said that it has been investing significantly in player protection and would be in favor of a single customer view system. It did not comment on the case itself. Flutter Entertainment also did not comment on the case, but The Guardian reported that Betfair’s owner reportedly has a policy of returning funds to the victims when a conviction shows that someone gambled with ill-gotten funds.
Finally, Betway said that it gave the funds back to Sealskinz and has been in touch with both the police and the UKGC about possible fraud.
This is not the only high-profile recent case whereby a gambling addict has embezzled funds to fuel their betting. 2018 World Poker Tour (WPT) L.A. Poker Classic champion Dennis Blieden received a six-and-a-half-year prison sentence in June for embezzling $22m. He used portions of this money to pay off gambling debts.