Ladbrokes has escaped being fined by the UK Gambling Commission for secrecy regarding a £1 million theft by a problem gambler. The bookmaker was called out for telling victims that they would only be compensated if they agreed to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
The UKGC opened an investigation into the matter after a report was made about how Tony Parente stole money in order to keep gambling, as well as how Parente and his victims were all told to sign a non-disclosure agreement by Ladbrokes and to avoid reporting the incident to regulators. Although the UKGC has issued guidance to licensees about NDAs, it told Parente that Ladbrokes would not be fined, as it “was satisfied that the NDA you were signatory of did not breach any of our licence conditions or regulatory requirements”.
It was The Guardian that first reported the incident last year, saying Ladbrokes enticed Parente to keep gambling by offering thousands of pounds worth of gifts. These gifts included free tickets to sporting events as well as business class flights from Dubai, where Parente is co-owner of a real estate firm, to London. Parente spent excessive amounts gambling with Ladbrokes within a two-year period and suffered losses of as much as £60,000 in one day.
Parente later admitted that most of the money he gambled away was stolen from his clients and business associates. Five of his victims filed complaints against Ladbrokes, accusing them of accepting stolen funds. The bookmaker agreed to pay a total of £975,000 to appease Parente’s victims. However, they also asked the victims not to “bring any complaint or make any report to any regulator in relation to the claim” if they wanted to actually receive their compensation.
After their investigation, the UKGC has said they will fine Ladbrokes, since “in this particular instance, the full details were reported by the operator and we have since issued them with advice over their conduct regarding NDAs.” The Gambling Commission also said that they “have also ensured that all future NDAs make clear that parties to the agreement can inform the relevant regulator.”
Ladbrokes isn’t quite in the clear, though, as they still could be fined for encouraging a gambling addict to continue wagering with the free gifts, bonuses, cashback, and other things they kept offering Parente. Earlier this year, the bookmaker was fined a record £5.9 million for failing to implement proper anti-money laundering controls as well as for failing to protect problem gamblers and vulnerable individuals.
Besides Ladbrokes, Flutter Entertainment has also landed in hot water for treating Parente to lavish trips and offering other gifts to keep him gambling. The gambler had previously asked to be banned from Betfair for life, but when Betfair merged with Paddy Power to become Flutter in 2015, he was able to open a new account with the bookmaker.
Amarjeet Singh Dhir, Parente’s former associate in Dubai, filed a lawsuit against Flutter, claiming that the company accepted money Parente had stolen from him. The bookmaker was called out for failing to check the source of the money Parente was using to wager on their site. A complaint was also lodged against them for encouraging a problem gambler who had previously banned himself from one of their brands.