Forget Brexit and the Royal Prerogative. There was better entertainment on offer at the Strand's Law Courts yesterday with the Court of Appeal giving judgment in a gambling case with £7.7m at stake. If you had a fiver on the gambler winning then you will have lost.
At Crockfords Club, the gambler had played Punto Banco, a game of pure chance, which they tell me is more sophisticated that my favourite Snap and is a variant of Baccarat. What he did was to engage in "edge-sorting" which involved exporting design irregularities on the backs of playing cards. Don't rush to the full judgment to find out how you can do it because the appeal court ruled that his method of play amounted to cheating. It was implied he would not cheat and, because he had cheated, Crockfords did not have to pay him out the £7.7 he thought he had won. Let's hope he hadn't spent too much on celebratory champagne. He hadn't been dishonest and he hadn't deceived but, in law, he had still cheated as his actions had a dramatic effect on the odds in the game.
This is the latest in a line of cases in which casinos have won in court. Last year a man who had gambled away £2m on the roulette tables at London's Ritz Hotel casino lost in court. His cheque signed in return for the gaming chips had bounced and the casino sued him for the money. His defence included that argument that the casino owed him a duty of care to take reasonable steps to see he was not harmed or exploited by the provision of gambling facilities. The trial judge rejected the gambler's evidence that he was suffering any gambling disorder at the relevant time and there was no evidence that his gambling was outside his control.
But this defence could possibly succeed where there was evidence that the gambling was wholly outside the gambler's control though they would have to overcome any suggestion that they would have lost the money somewhere else anyway. "You shouldn't have given me credit" is also a line which might succeed in the case of a pathological borrower against their lender who was fully aware of their financial weakness (see Breaking Law on Protection From Your Creditors at chapter 30).