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UK bookies face compensation claims over addict’s bets

| By iGB Editorial Team
William Hill and Paddy Power Betfair accused of carrying out insufficient checks on sources of individual's money wagered in high-street shops

Two of the UK’s most prominent bookmakers are facing compensation claims after allegedly failing to block a gambling addict from placing bets with stolen cash at William Hill and Paddy Power high-street shops.

The bets were funded by money that the unnamed individual admitted to having stolen from clients while working in Dubai’s property sector.

The individual, who was interviewed by police in April, has not been charged after he agreed to help his victims to seek redress from the bookmakers.

It was first reported by the Guardian that a total of £650,000 (€721,000/$817,000) was staked by the individual at two William Hill shops over a six-month period, while compensation of £965,000 is being sought from Paddy Power Betfair.

In February this year William Hill was hit with a £6.2m fine for allowing customers to deposit funds accumulated through criminal activities, among other failings, while in October Paddy Power Betfair was fined £2.2m by the Gambling Commission for similar issues. William Hill's fine related to failings between November 2014 and August 2016, while Paddy Power Betfair's concerned events in 2016, though it is unclear whether either fine covers the matters raised in the complaints.

At the heart of the pending claims are allegations that the bookmakers failed to carry out sufficient checks on the sources of the individual’s money.

It is alleged that the individual was not formally questioned by William Hill about the source of the funds used for gambling until he had already spent £458,000 over three months. It is claimed that he brought bags full of cash into shops and asked them to be kept behind the counter for safe keeping, and on two occasions he placed bets totalling more than £50,000 on a single day.

Bookmakers are obliged to ask about the source of funds when large amounts are staked under the terms of their licence.

Law firm Mackrell Turner Garrett, which is handling both of the cases on behalf of the individual’s victims, told iGamingBusiness.com today (December 11) that two people would be represented in the claim against Paddy Power Betfair, with three represented in the claim against William Hill.

With the deadline for a voluntary settlement agreement having passed, the next step will be to issue a formal claim against the two bookmakers, which the firm said it expects to do soon. If the cases reach court, they are unlikely to be heard for at least 12 months.

Mackrell partner James Atton added that he was “disappointed that the Gambling Commission and Paddy Power Betfair have both failed to engage with my clients”.

William Hill, which has taken steps to engage, told iGamingBusiness.com: “We are aware of a number of allegations […] and have been waiting for months for them to be substantiated. We continue to await this information and note he has not been subject to any police investigation or prosecution with regards to the alleged thefts.”

A spokesperson for the Association of British Bookmakers, the trade organisation for the UK’s high-street betting shops, told iGamingBusiness.com: “It’s a not a matter for us.”

Image: Edward Hands

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