A judge has accused UK sportsbook operator Paddy Power of apathy towards problem gambling behaviour in his ruling on a case over stolen gambling funds. [Image: Shutterstuck.com]
A bittersweet verdict
A High Court judge in the UK has sided with Paddy Power in a case over stolen funds, but ruled that the operator “did not really care” about one of its users who compulsively gambled above his means.
Tony Parente took the funds over a three-year period between 2013 and 2016
The comments came as part a court battle between the UK-based sportsbook operator and a businessman who claimed his partner stole money to gamble. Plaintiff Amarjeet Singh Dhir alleged problem gambler Tony Parente took the funds over a three-year period between 2013 and 2016.
Parente supposedly stole around £2.3m ($3.3m) from his partner in the Dubai-based property business. As a result, Dhir sued Flutter Entertainment-owned Paddy Power claiming the sportsbook operator had failed to prevent the fraud. Justices then assessed the case based on UK and Dubai laws.
The UK High Court ulitmately sided with Paddy Power, ruling that Dhir could not prove a direct link between the stolen funds and Parente’s gambling. However, in summing up, the judge criticised the operator for its apathy in regards to Parente’s troubling behaviour, even accusing Paddy Power of encouraging the compulsive gambler to wager more.
Parente’s gambling history
Parente previously held a Betfair account between 2008 and 2010 before self excluding. He joined Paddy Power in 2015, receiving a £20,000 ($28,269) sign-on bonus to do so.
Supposedly labelled as a “wild man” in internal Paddy Power emails, Parente lost £15,000 ($21,217) in one day later that year after placing 164 online casino bets totalling £538,065 ($761,075). Supposedly, he subsequently received complimentary tickets to events and bonuses as incentives to continue gambling.
The court heard that Paddy Power completed a due diligence check on Parente in November 2015 when his total losses reached £152,912 ($216,291). However, the operator permitted Parente to continue to gamble during this period, despite trying and failing to obtain source of funds information from the businessman.
During this time, Dhir said he gave funds to Parente believing he intended to invest it into the local property market in Dubai. The High Court judge indicated that Dhir lent Parente around £1m ($1.4m) in 2015 for this reason.
Paddy Power suspended Parente’s account in June 2016 due to an anti-money laundering breach. Despite this, the court heard that betting shop staff continued to accept £127,000 ($179,639) in cash from the problem gambler before he took action to self exclude in October 2016.
The judge’s final ruling
In total, Parente lost £3.4m ($4.8m) gambling with Paddy Power, William Hill, Ladbrokes, and Bet365 over the three-year period. He later admitted that he defrauded more than 20 people to fuel the habit and received a suspended jail sentence in 2017.
unhealthy and unsustainable gambling addiction”
Although ultimately deciding to rule in Paddy Power’s favor in the case with Dhir, High Court Judge Justice Griffiths made clear that the operator was far from devoid of blame. In his final written ruling, he said the operator knew of Parente’s “unhealthy and unsustainable gambling addiction on an escalating and desperate scale.”
Griffiths noted that just one month before Parente closed his account in September, he lost £77,846 ($110,116) by staking a total of £2.3m ($3.3m). The judge said that Paddy Power’s VIP unit had “laconically noted” the activity as normal. “In my judgement, Paddy Power knew that it was dealing with a compulsive gambler who could not afford what he was doing, and Paddy Power did not really care,” he commented.
Flutter left red-faced
In response to Judge Griffiths’s final verdict, Dan Taylor, CEO of Flutter Entertainment UK and Ireland expressed embarrassment over the due diligence failings. Speaking in the conclusion to the case, he described the final ruling as “no cause for celebration.”
not good enough.”
In a cross examination by Dhir’s lawyers, Taylor admitted that there were “strong indicators” of problem gambling in Parente’s case. He noted that the industry has made progress in protecting vulnerable customers since then, but described Paddy Power’s procedures at the time as “not good enough.”
“The way Mr Parente’s account was handled, the failings of which were acknowledged in 2018 as part of a settlement agreed with the UK Gambling Commission, is a source of significant embarrassment for Flutter,” he concluded.