Friday 15 December 2017

Punters be warned - judge rules gamblers have no legal guarantee of being paid winnings

Gambling stock photo
Gambling stock photo

Saurya Cherfi

Punters be warned, under Irish law winning gamblers have no legal guarantee of ever being paid a cent, a judge in the Circuit Civil Court has ruled.

Judge Francis Comerford handed down the judgment in a legal action brought by Sayed Mirwais against Automatic Amusements Ltd, which trades as D1 Casino, and also against casino director Michael Donnelly.

Mirwais had claimed that D1 Casino, of 63/64 Lower Dorset Street, Dublin, had refused to pay him €11,713 he had won after placing several bets on an automated roulette machine.

He said that on the night of March 2 and 3, 2015, he first won about €7,500. When he had wanted to cash it out, he had been given €2,500 in cash and €5,000 worth of chips, before being told to play more and he would be paid at the end of the night.

The court heard that after he won a further €6,713, he was told by a manager to cash out.  When he had gone to the cashier counter he had been told the casino had no more cash for the night but that he would be paid the following day.  He had also been told that an engineer would later check the roulette machine.

Mirwais (36), a married father of two with an address at St Mary’s Place, Phibsborough, Dublin, claimed the casino refused to pay him despite multiple requests.

He claimed he was allowed to continue playing on the roulette machine in the hope he would lose and the casino had no intention of paying him if he won.  He said it constituted an unfair commercial practice.

Counsel for the casino, which had delivered a full defence to Mirwais’ claim, said there had been a “suspiciously high amount of money lost by the roulette machine.”

Mirwais denied that he found a flaw in the machine which allowed him to play even though the screen indicated ‘no more bets.’  The casino also claimed that he had been “under observation.” 

The casino alleged that Mirwais changed the screen layout from single to double play mode in order to re-place a bet which had been placed in a previous game, enabling him to place a bet when the roulette ball had already settled.  It had been unaware of the malfunction of the machine.

Mirwais, an afghan refugee who qualified as a doctor in his home country and who, the court heard, had, the night before the incident, lost €9,000 in the same casino, said he had won “fairly and squarely.”

“When I was losing my money, the machine was ok and the casino was happy to take it, but when I won, they wanted to investigate,” Mirwais told the court.

Judge Comerford said one needs to have considerable trust to put a bet on an automated machine when one cannot see what is happening.  The judge said that he had to rely on the Gaming and Lottery Act 1956 which states that “no action shall lie for the recovery of any money or thing which is alleged to be won.”

“If you happen to be too lucky while placing a bet or gambling, the person can simply say ‘no you’re not entitled to the money’.  That is simply the law in Ireland,” the judge said.

He dismissed Mirwais’ claim and refused an application by the casino for their legal costs on the basis that they had only furnished, by way of discovery, ten minutes of CCTV footage of the night in question.

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