Billionaire loses fight against casino debt

Billionaire loses fight against casino debt

Monday, August 3, 2015
Safa Abdulla Al-Geabury was sued by London's Ritz Club

A billionaire Swiss businessman has failed in his bid to avoid paying for the £2m (€2.85m/$3.12m) he lost in a “frantic gambling spree” at London’s Ritz Club casino after failing to convince a court he is a vulnerable gambling addict.

Safa Abdulla Al-Geabury alleged, in contesting High Court action taken by the Ritz Club, that he should not have been allowed to gamble at the exclusive Mayfair casino as he had self-excluded in November 2009.

Al-Geabury, who was said in court to have assets of more than $1bn, continued to gamble at the casino after that date, claiming that staff were aware he had a gambling problem, and matters came to a head when he exchanged a cheque worth £2m for roulette chips on one night in February 2014. 

In what he described as a “frantic gambling spree” that was “frenzied and uncontrolled”, he was later refused a further £5m credit, while the initial cheque was returned unpaid the following day.

His counsel, Kevin Pettican, told the court that by providing Al-Geabury – who claims to have excluded himself from several other establishments - with facilities to gamble after November 2009, the club unlawfully breached the terms of its gaming licence.

As well as contesting the action, the currency and jewellery trader had counter-claimed for £3.4m – or £5.4m in the event that the judge decided he was liable on the cheque – based on what he was allowed to gamble between October 2010 and February 2014.

But Mrs Justice Simler declared: “The defendant’s claims fail and are dismissed ... The facts of this case are highly unusual and unlikely to be repeated.” 

Al-Geabury, the judge said, had “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”.

The judge added: “At the heart of Mr Al-Geabury’s defence to this claim is his case that he suffers from ‘a very severe and serious gambling addiction which he is unable to control’ and for which he claimed he was receiving treatment as at 8 April 2014.” 

Simler concluded, however, that the “evidence was a far cry from establishing the defendant’s account”. Al-Geabury was ordered to pay the £2m plus interest accrued over the last 18 months.

The Ritz Club said in a statement: “We welcome today’s decision from the high court. As a responsible provider of gambling we are committed to ensuring the strictest standards of care towards both our customers and staff at all times.”

According to the London Evening Standard, the Ritz Club has litigated against 10 people in the last 12 months alone, in an effort to recoup 2013 losses of £12.5m.
 

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