Star Sports faces customer challenge over duty-of-care failings

Star Sports faces customer challenge over duty-of-care failings

A Star Sports customer from West London has taken the independent bookmaker to court, accusing the firm of allowing him to wager and lose hundreds of thousands despite knowing he had a gambling problem.

Scott O’Brien case in the Central London County Court is currently in its second day out of four, with the second hearing having started this morning, presided over by Judge Heather Baucher.

According to the Racing Post, Knightsbridge resident O’Brien claims that Star Sports were aware of his issues with gambling, having spent 10 months in a rehabilitation centre between 2002 and 2003 and had once attempted suicide.

The claimant argues that despite this he was able to place bets totalling £419,252 during September 14, 2018 and March 30, 2019 at a Star Sports shop in Mayfair, accumulating a net loss of £48,859.

Of contention, however, is whether or not he used self-service betting terminals (SSBTs) – O’Brien claims that his stake numbers did not factor this in, but Star Sports’ defence argues that he never used the terminals. 

Furthermore, whether or not he informed a shop worker, Gemma Mehmet, about his prior issues with problem gambling is also an area of dispute, with the defence denying his claims that he had told the cashier about his past.

A final factor under evaluation in the case – and one which may be of particular importance to the wider industry amid heightened talk around affordability checks – is O’Brien’s alleged personal wealth.

An aforementioned resident of the wealthy Knightsbridge district of West London and a customer of the Star Sports in affluent Mayfair, O’Brien apparently has extensive business experience, contacts and income, having made £2.2m when selling a business which he was a Director of for £9m, according to the Post’s sources.

This takes on relevance for the industry ahead of the Gambling Act review White Paper publication, as enhanced affordability checks have been outlined as an almost-guaranteed outcome of the regulatory shakeup.

Additionally, since the Gambling Act review started 15 months ago, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has become increasingly alert to instances of operator’s failing on social responsibility areas.

Just this morning, the regulator announced a new record penalty of £19.2m against William Hill for failings which occurred in 2020 and 2021, including examples of both retail and online customers staking and losing large amounts of money in short time periods.

The ongoing court case in London is currently assessing a similar topic, seeking to determine if Star Sports failed in its social responsibility duties when O’Brien wagered with the firm four years ago.

Operating since 1999, Star Sports is an independent betting group founded by pro-punter and racing expert Ben Keith. The company recently announced that it would open its eighth betting in London. Located in Mayfair’s Curzon Street.

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