Ritz Club casino wins battle over £2m from gambling 'addict'
The Ritz Club casino has won a High Court battle to recover more than £2 million from a gambling "addict".
Safa Abdulla Al-Geabury, who says he is worth more than a billion dollars, wrote a cheque for £2 million on February 19 2014, in exchange for roulette chips, but it was returned unpaid.
The Ritz Hotel Casino Ltd, which markets its Ritz Club as one of the most luxurious and exclusive in the world, went to court to recover the sum plus interest, which is running at £438 a day.
Mr Al-Geabury, who rents homes in Sloane Street and Chelsea in London and in Geneva, does not dispute signing the cheque - but says that in November 2009, in an attempt to control his gambling disorder, he self-excluded himself for life from the Club's casino.
His counsel Kevin Pettican told a judge in London at a recent hearing that by providing Mr Al-Geabury with facilities to gamble after that date, the Club unlawfully breached the terms of its gaming licence.
But today Mrs Justice Simler ruled in favour of the Ritz Hotel Casino Ltd, announcing that there would be judgment for the claimant "on its claim in respect of the dishonoured cheque, together with interest as claimed".
As well as contesting the action, Mr Al-Geabury counter-claimed for £3.4 million - or £5.4 million in the event that the judge decided he was liable on the cheque.
This represents the sums he lost when he was allowed to gamble between October 2010 and February 2014.
Mr Al-Geabury, 52, says that before he signed the Ritz form, he had already excluded himself from Grosvenor Casinos and Aspinalls Club.
He also excluded himself from all casinos operated by London Clubs International, writing on his form: "I have brain problem. I am addict of gambling."
But the judge declared: "The defendant's claims fail and are dismissed."
She said: "The facts of this case are highly unusual and unlikely to be repeated."
Mr Al-Geabury had "failed to establish that he had any gambling disorder at any material time and ultimately accepted that he never told any of the casino staff about any such problem."
The judge concluded: "He was the author of his own misfortunes."
The judge said Mr Al-Geabury "gambled away £2 million on the roulette tables" at the casino on the evening of February 19 2014.
The question raised by the claim, she said, was whether the claimant "is entitled to recover from him the sum of £2 million plus interest in respect of the cheque in that sum which he signed in return for gambling chips that evening, but was subsequently dishonoured by him".
Mrs Justice Simler said: "At the heart of Mr Al-Geabury's defence to this claim is his case that he suffers from 'a very severe and serious gambling addiction which he is unable to control' and for which he claimed he was receiving treatment as at 8 April 2014..."
In her concluding remarks she said the "evidence was a far cry from establishing the defendant's account".
The Ritz Club said in a statement: " We welcome today's decision from the High Court.
"As a responsible provider of gambling we are committed to ensuring the strictest standards of care towards both our customers and staff at all times."