Ladbrokes, Britain’s biggest gambling operator, gagged a gambling addict customer and his victims, from reporting on how the company allegedly encouraged his illegal betting, according to an investigation by The Times media outlet. The gambler, a UK real estate broker working in Dubai, pilfered more than £1.8 million in cash from five investors, to fund his gambling addiction and to keep him and the five victims from speaking out, the gambling giant made use of a ‘non-disclosure agreement’, which hasn’t been as successful as they’d have hoped. The use of the gagging order by Ladbrokes, aka a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), prevented the Gambling Commission being told, which has prompted calls from Labour and Conservative MP’s for the government to review how they are being used.
The former Conservative leader and vice-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm, Iain Duncan Smith, described the gagging order as “very sinister” before stating that;
“There needs to be a very serious look at the use and abuse of these orders.”
Tom Watson, the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, also weighed in on the findings of The Times investigation;
“Those suffering from gambling related harm should be able to freely raise concerns with the appropriate authorities, not be silenced by the very companies who are responsible for enabling problem gambling and doing too little to prevent it.”
Here’s How It’s Done
It’s claimed that the gambler was shown a way around strict UAE internet restrictions, set in place to stop online gambling, by a Ladbrokes VIP manager! A VPN (virtual private network) was suggested to the gambler with the VIP manager even going as far as offering a free iPad to the customer with a VPN already installed on the device. It’s alleged that Ladbrokes instructed the gambler not to use his Dubai address, but to register with a UK address so he could gamble with ease, from within the United Arab Emirates. Analysing the evidence, a leading QC said;
“More than simply turning a blind eye, Ladbroke’s encouraged and actively facilitated this illegal gambling activity.”
Without admitting liability, Ladbrokes agreed to repay £975,000 in February 2018, but only if the victims who Ladbrokes addressed as ‘investors’ and the gambler, signed a non-disclosure agreement which stated;
“The claimants agree not to bring any complaint or make any report to any regulator in relation to the claim.”
The purpose of an NDA is to stop people speaking out and, in this case, it prevented the victims and the gambling addict from informing the governing body of what happened. The operator failed to make relevant checks on how the customer who earned £150,000 a year, could afford to gamble more than £6.6 million in 2015 – this figure was up from £750,000 in 2013.
It’s alleged that the customer was able to transfer tens of thousands of pounds from a bank account he held in Dubai, to bank accounts in the UK via his online betting account, this process has been described as “a classic money laundering tactic and is expressly forbidden in the terms and conditions on the Ladbrokes website” by the QC.
But, it’s not the first time this has happened, and it probably won’t be the last! The Times also learned that another gambling operator, this time Paddy Power Betfair also made use of a confidentiality agreement, thus stopping a gambling addict from reporting on regulation breaches to the Gambling Commission.