The Ritz Club London, one of the city’s most exclusive members-only casinos, has won a £2 million ($3.1 million) lawsuit, plus interest, against a high roller who refused to pay his debts by claiming he is a gambling addict.
The Ritz sued Safa Abdulla Al-Geabury, after the Swiss businessman went on a $2 million gambling spree at the club’s roulette tables in February 2014, and lost.
Al-Geabury wrote out a check to fund the session, but it bounced when the casino tried to cash it the following morning.
The court heard that the Ritz had refused a request to advance Al-Geabury a further £5 million ($7.8 million) after he had lost the initial $2 million.
Al-Geabury’s defense relied on the court accepting that he is a gambling addict, and that staff should have known this and stopped him from playing.
He claimed that he had self-excluded himself from the Ritz Club in 2009 because, in his own words, “I have brain problem, I am addict of gambling.”
The businessman demanded that the debts be written off, while counter-claiming for a further £3.4million ($5.3 million), which represents the amount he said he lost at the Ritz between October 2010 and February 2014.
Author of his Own Misfortunes
Defense attorney Kevin Pettican argued that the club had violated the terms of its gambling license by allowing his client to gamble post-2009. However, the Ritz had revoked the self-exclusion agreement at Al-Geabury’s behest, following consultation with the UK Gambling Commission.
Since then, the businessman (whose net-worth is close to $1 billion) used the luxurious surroundings of the Ritz to impress wealthy clients, according to court documents. Clive Freedman QC represented the Ritz, noting that Al-Geabury’s losses were of “little or no consequence” for a man of his extreme wealth.
Ruling in favor of the Ritz, Judge Simler declared that Al-Geabury 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,” she added.
Furthermore, Al-Geabury was an “intemperate witness,” whose account “lacked credibility and was riddled with inconsistency,” she said.
$19.4 Million in Unpaid Debts
The Ritz has been plunged into the red lately because of the mounting unpaid gambling debts of London’s high rollers, which has forced it to pursue its debtors aggressively in the courts.
According to the London Evening Standard, the casino has litigated against 10 people in the last 12 months alone, in an effort to recoup 2013 losses of £12.5 million ($19.4 million.)
In 2014, the casino won a similar High Court battle against Noora Al-Daher, the billionaire wife of the Omani foreign minister, who also claimed gambling addiction.
“We welcome today’s decision from the High Court,” said the Ritz in an official statement. “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.”