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Ritz Hotel Casino Ltd v Safa Al Geabury

31st Jul 2015

In a highly publicised case, Clive Freedman QC of 7 KBW has successfully represented the Ritz Hotel Casino and obtained judgment for £2,000,000 plus interest and indemnity costs against Mr Al Geabury on a gambling debt. The judgment was handed down in the High Court in London by Mrs Justice Simler today 31 July 2015. Clive led Marc Delehanty and was instructed by PCB Litigation LLP.

Mr Al Geabury claimed that he had a gambling addiction which led to his losses. He relied on a voluntary self-exclusion agreement for life (“VSE”) which he had made with the Ritz in November 2009. Almost a year later, the Ritz agreed to cancel the VSE following consultation with the Gambling Commission. Mr Al Geabury contended that an agreement for life could not be terminated, but the Judge found that, provided that it acted reasonably, a casino could agree to cancel a VSE. The Ritz did act reasonably because it consulted the Gambling Commission and it reasonably believed that Mr Al Geabury did not have an addiction. The judgment provides important guidance as to the nature of VSEs and the obligations of licence holders to self-excluded gamblers.

Experts for the Ritz and Mr Al Geabury had agreed in their written reports that, on the basis of the information related by Mr Al Geabury, he was suffering from a gambling problem. However, following “painstaking” collation and analysis of the gambling records of Mr Al Geabury at the Ritz and other casinos by the legal team, the cross-examination of the factual and expert witnesses demonstrated that he had no gambling addiction at any time.

This led to the Judge rejecting the evidence of Mr Al Geabury and his witnesses. She found that Mr Al Geabury had provided false information both to a treating doctor and to the experts in the case about his gambling condition in order to support his allegations. Mrs Justice Simler concluded:

“Although it has been presented as a case about the early revocation of a VSE in place to protect a vulnerable person with a severe gambling disorder, the evidence was a far cry from establishing the Defendant’s account. The defence of illegality and breach of contract, and the claims of negligence, the additional serious allegations of misrepresentation, undue influence and unconscionable transaction all fail. The Defendant failed to establish that he had any gambling disorder at any material time and ultimately accepted that he never told any of the Casino staff about any such problem. He was the author of his own misfortunes.”

Please click here to view the judgment.

Links to media coverage:

The Daily Mail

The Evening Standard

The Express