Ladbrokes ‘Groomed’ Australian Problem Gambler

Ladbrokes, a casino operator, was found to have “groomed” an Australian problem gambler who defrauded his employer of more than A$3 million to fund his gambling addiction.

In a court case, litigators are suing the betting brand, which is part of the broader Entain gambling community, for around A$5.1 million for its involvement in its customers’ illegal activities.

Between December 2016 and July 2017, Jaicome Spinella, a Melbourne-based concreting firm employee, confessed to depositing more than A$3.1 million in company funds into his personal Ladbrokes betting account.

Mr. Spinella was the only person in charge of Bauen’s finances. He co-owned the business with his brother and a neighbour. Since he was in possession of company funds, he used Bauen’s credit card to top up his betting account 571 times over the seven-month timeframe in question.

In mid-2017, he eventually confessed. His company was forced to hire liquidators, and 50 workers were laid off. Mr. Spinella is said to have worked with liquidators, police, and ASIC, admitting to “lending himself” more than A$3 million and behaving against the company’s best interests.

He pleaded guilty to one rolled-up charge of dishonesty on Monday. After Bauen was liquidated, he relocated to Brisbane, where he was diagnosed with gambling and alcoholism. On Monday, he flew to Melbourne to appear in person before the Victoria County Court. Mr. Spinella must now remain in prison until his sentencing on Friday.

The Problem Gambler Wasn’t Helped by Ladbrokes

Mr. Spinella has been sued for A$5.1 million for allegedly failing to discourage him from misappropriating company funds and assist him with his gambling addiction.

Mr. Spinella’s lawyer, Nadia Kaddeche, said Monday that internal Ladbrokes emails included the phrase “gamblers as bad as Jaicome come along once in a lifetime, so make sure we keep him on.”

These emails sounded like the gambling operator had “groomed” its gambler, according to Judge Michael Cahill, and “there does seem to be some level of interference… if not exploitation” by the big sports betting brand.

Mr. Spinella’s lawyer testified in court that her client’s gambling became more serious when he tried to recoup the money he had lost. His gambling problem “became too much for him,” according to Ms. Kaddeche.

For his acts, the Ladbrokes customer faces a jail sentence. Because of the amount of money Mr. Spinella misappropriated to fuel their gambling addiction, Judge Cahill said this kind of punishment was unavoidable.

This isn’t the first time Ladbrokes has run afoul of Australian regulators. Last year, the business was hit with a record fine in New South Wales for incentivizing people to gamble in ways that were against local gaming laws and regulations.