The Ritz Club, London’s famously high-end, high-roller casino, is suing a Swiss property tycoon over a £2 million ($3.1 million) bounced check.
According to the Ritz’s filing, Safa Abdulla Al Geabury wrote out the check to fund a gambling session one night in February last year, but it turned out to be a dud when the casino tried to bank it the following morning.
The Ritz is also seeking an extra £200,000 ($310,000) in accumulated interest on the debt.
It’s been reported that the casino, which is owned by reclusive billionaire identical twins, Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, has been plunged into the red by a series of unpaid gambling debts, forcing it to pursue its debtors aggressively in the courts.
According to the London Evening Standard, the casino has litigated against 10 high rollers in the last year alone in an effort to recoup 2013 losses of £12.5 million ($19.4 million).
Al Geabury’s defense is that he is a gambling addict and his staff should have known this and stopped him from playing.
He wants the debts written off, but he’s on shaky ground with this line; in 2014 the casino won a similar High Court battle against Noora Al-Daher, the wife of the Omani foreign minister.
The Ritz sued Al-Daher after she had visited the casino in April 2012 and proceeded to lose £2 million ($3.3 million) in a few hours. Al-Daher failed to honor £1 million ($1.65) of her debt. She promptly counter-sued the casino, claiming that the casino had taken advantage of her.
Al-Daher had claimed in court that Ritz Club employees encouraged her to continue playing a game of chemin-de-fer, despite having been made aware of her gambling addiction, and even allowed her to cash checks, which she claimed was illegal.
She also said that the casino had been under a “duty of care” towards her, a responsibility which it had failed to fulfill.
However, the court heard that Al-Daher and her family had apparently happily gambled away $5 million in Las Vegas a few months after her visit to the Ritz.
In ruling in favor of the casino, the judge said he was certain that, had Al-Daher been refused permission to carry on gambling at the Ritz, she “would have been eager and inclined to gamble at other casinos thereafter, and very probably during her stay in London during the days or weeks after 3 April 2012.”
The judge in the Al Geabury case, Mrs Justice Simler, meanwhile, said at a preliminary hearing that psychiatric reports have been commissioned to assess Al Geabury’s state of mind on the day he lost the money and whether he was in control of his actions.
“The essence is whether Mr Al Geabury has a gambling addiction and the claimant’s knowledge of that,” she said.