Bookmakers 'helped gambling addict squander injury compensation'

Lawyers claim Ladbrokes and Paddy Power let Liam McCarron’s losses reach £500,000

Two leading bookmakers helped a severely disabled gambling addict fill out betting slips as he squandered his compensation from a botched operation, it has been claimed.

Lawyers for Liam McCarron say that Ladbrokes Coral and Paddy Power failed to intervene over more than three years as his losses reached at least £500,000.

McCarron had been a successful businessman until 2007, when he sustained “catastrophic” injuries during a medical procedure, leading to permanent and severe impairment of his movement and speech.

In a letter seen by the Guardian, McCarron’s lawyers say it should have been obvious to both companies that he was a vulnerable person who could not have been earning a salary and was likely to be gambling beyond his means.

According to the claim, which has been forwarded to the Gambling Commission, staff at Ladbrokes were aware that he was using the diminishing proceeds of a one-off payout, writing in internal notes in 2014 that he had “received substantial compensation”.

But they allegedly failed to take proper steps to address his gambling disorder until 2017, when staff at Ladbrokes’ sister company, Coral, asked him to fill out a form proving his source of funds. He was unable to do so because he would have required the help of his wife, who was not aware of the extent of his gambling losses.

By the time McCarron was eventually barred from gambling, he had lost an estimated £500,000.

Lawyers at Ellis Jones say that a timely intervention would have prevented this and they are seeking the restitution of his losses and compensation for the effect on his personal life, pointing to two suicide attempts and the breakup of his marriage.

Both companies have so far said that they did not do anything wrong.

Responding to questions through a family member, McCarron said: “It has had an enormous impact on me. There is the obvious financial impact, in that the money I used to gamble was intended to be for my ongoing living costs and care needs, which are significant.

“The impact goes way beyond finances, though, as it has caused irreparable damage to my family relationships. On top of that, I feel that I have lost my dignity and self-respect.”

The case, which is being examined by the Gambling Commission, has left MPs shocked. Carolyn Harris, who chairs a cross-party group of MPs examining gambling-related harm, said: “Disability should not stop someone enjoying the activities they love, including gambling. But in this case, it ought to have been clear to these bookmakers that Mr McCarron could not afford to bet so much money.

“They should have intervened, but instead they kept on taking his money for years. The fact that he was using compensation from an operation that has affected his life so badly is all the more tragic.”

Richard Holden, MP for North West Durham, said: “It’s absolutely unbelievable that predatory gambling companies were able to get away with exploiting a vulnerable person for years in this way. All businesses have a duty of care to their customers and gambling companies have a specific duty to protect the vulnerable.

“It’s clear that the system isn’t working. The government must now bring forward an urgent and broad review of the 2005 Gambling Act, as was promised in the manifesto, as soon as possible.”

Paddy Power declined to comment.

A spokesperson for GVC, which owns Ladbrokes Coral, said: “While we are legally unable to comment on the specifics of individual, historic cases, we can demonstrate that positive steps have been taken and continue to be taken in these and similar circumstances.

“This includes proactively interacting with, and providing advice and support to, customers who may show potential signs of problematic play, and intervening where appropriate, including asking customers for more information to ensure that their betting is sustainable.

“Protecting those who may be at risk and ensuring customer safety continues to be a key priority for GVC.”

The Gambling Commission does not comment on individual cases.

Contributor

Rob Davies

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Influential group of MPs calls for total ban on gambling advertising
Exclusive: report proposing far tighter regulation for industry could shape government review

Rob Davies

15, Jun, 2020 @12:30 PM

Article image
Betting firms won £1.3m in stolen money from gambling addict
Andy May convicted of fraud in case that highlights need for industry reform, say campaigners

Rob Davies

14, Jun, 2021 @6:48 PM

Article image
UK betting companies report profits in 2020 as US market opens up
Rise in online gambling during lockdown also boosts profits, with only William Hill struggling

Rob Davies

04, Mar, 2021 @2:53 PM

Article image
Gambling charity warns betting firms are failing to fund addiction treatment
Betting companies are failing to honour pledge to donate to care, says leading charity GambleAware

Rob Davies

31, Oct, 2017 @9:17 AM

Article image
UK gambling firms' offer to boost levy branded a bribe
Plan to help problem gamblers would raise funds sixfold to £60m a year but some critics dismiss offer

Rob Davies

20, Jun, 2019 @12:22 PM

Article image
UK betting faces bigger threats than losing its sport shirts
Industry fears the government’s review of gambling laws could introduce ‘existential’ changes

Rob Davies

01, Feb, 2021 @7:00 AM

Article image
Gambling watchdog under fire over betting firms' role in addiction taskforce
Companies are ‘marking their own homework’ by being part of working groups, say critics

Rob Davies

24, Jan, 2020 @1:10 PM

Article image
Bookmakers accused of bypassing FOBT rules with roulette-style games
New high-stakes games pop up after government reduces stakes from £100 to £2

Rob Davies

01, Apr, 2019 @5:12 PM

Article image
Bookmakers weigh up judicial review against FOBT curbs
Major firms dismayed at suggestion of cutting top bet to £2 before end of official consultation

Rob Davies

22, Jan, 2018 @4:15 PM

Article image
Betting firm accused over 'astroturfing' with customer lobby group
The Players’ Panel, created by Ladbrokes owner Entain, criticised for giving false impression of grassroots campaign

Rob Davies

16, Feb, 2021 @3:52 PM