In March, Crown London Aspinalls Casino argued in court that high roller Lester Hui should pay £589,724 in baccarat losses that he incurred years earlier. Hui claimed the casino knowing gave him alcohol until he was “blackout drunk” and thus couldn’t make appropriate decisions. On Friday, a UK High Court judge sided with the casino and ordered Hui to pay what he owes.
In the suit, Hui claimed that he visited Aspinalls one night in 2016 and that staff brought him Moutai, a Chinese liquor which is 53% alcohol by volume. He said staff members “deliberately failed to intervene to stop him from gaming…so that through intoxication he would gamble large sums and so lose to the financial benefit of [Aspinalls].”
Hui’s lawyers asserted that the casino has “social commitments” to protect its customers, which it failed to do. Part of their interesting defense is that upon entering Aspinalls, Hui told the staff he was going to get blitzed and that he wanted to cap his potential losses at £30,000. The casino said that his claim was untrue and that it would not risk its reputation for such an odd request.
“It would expose the club to serious reputational harm,” said Alexander Robson, Aspinalls’ attorney. “The club looks to build on its long-term reputation based on trust between the club and its clients.”
Aspinalls said that Hui did actually write a check to cover the losses at the time, but it bounced.
Part of the casino’s defense was that Hui, who had been a VIP member of Aspinalls for years, was sober enough to drive his Bentley 20 miles home that night (or I guess he was very lucky that he got home in one piece).
The judge ultimately ruled that Hui exaggerated how much he drank and that Aspinalls employees never “considered, or had sufficient reason to consider [Hui] was too intoxicated to gamble.”
Regardless of the result, the case does highlight the question of how much responsibility casinos have to protect their patrons. With the rise of sports betting in the US, we have seen messages from gaming companies about “gambling responsibly” and the like, but we also know that their business is to get people to gamble.
Casinos are notorious for their tactics to keep people at the gaming tables. No windows, no clocks, supposedly pumping oxygen into the gaming floor, free drinks, comps, and so on and so forth. They surely know that the more comfortable, happy, and in many cases, liquored up its customers are, the looser they will be with their wallets. There must be a line somewhere, but in the Aspinalls case, the judge decided that line was never crossed.