Bookmakers: duty of care as enabler?
Published 11 October 2009
By Gary Rice, Beauchamps Solicitors
A recent UK Court case (Calvert v William Hill Credit Limited  EWCA Civ 1427) examined whether bookmakers owe a duty of care to protect compulsive gamblers from themselves.
The facts, in summary, are that a compulsive gambler signed up for an account with a bookmaker to make telephone bets and after a flurry of calls and bets over a number of hours asked that his account be closed and not reopened.
The bookmaker did not follow proper procedures and let him open another account with the company. The gambler sued for breach of the general duty to protect problem gamblers from their compulsion and, alternatively, for breach of the specific duty for its failure to close the account and not reopen it. The Court in the first instance held that there was no general duty, but there was a specific duty in this case which had been breached. However, the judge also held that the damages were not a result of this breach since, as a compulsive gambler, he would have lost the money anyway on bets with other bookmakers and the gambler appealed.
The Court of Appeal said that this is not a matter of determining whether there was a duty of care, a breach of that duty and the damages caused by the breach. Instead the question is whether the scope of the duty of care in the circumstances of the case is such as to embrace damage of the kind which the claimant claims to have suffered. In denying his appeal, the Court of Appeal held that the bookmaker did assume a responsibility to not allow the gambler to place telephone bets with them (as per his account), but it did not assume a responsibility to prevent him from gambling other than by telephone bets with the bookmaker in question. The quantification of his losses could not ignore other gambling losses which he probably would have suffered in light of his compulsion.
The judge did highlight concerns regarding the bookmaker’s internal procedures when a customer tries to exclude himself from utilising the service. The judge recommended regular reviews of the self-exclusion policy as well as clear, written notification of the policy and procedures to its customers.
Article obtained from www.beauchamps.ie, the website of Beauchamps Solicitors. Article reproduced with their kind permission.
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