A high-rolling gambler has learned the hard way that casino perks don’t include the forgiving of debts. Noora Adbullah Mahawish Al-Daher (pictured), a Saudi heiress and the wife of Oman’s foreign minister, ran up a £2m marker at the Ritz Club Casino in London’s Ritz Hotel during a gambling session in April 2012. In December of that year, Al-Daher paid £1m of her debt but checks she wrote to cover the balance bounced. Al-Daher subsequently refused to repay the other £1m based on her claim that the casino took advantage of her gambling addiction by allowing her to wager on credit.
The Piccadilly casino promptly filed suit against Al-Daher, who filed a countersuit to reclaim the £1m she’d paid the Ritz, arguing that the casino had a “duty of care” to prevent her from exercising free will. She claimed that she’d been a “vulnerable” gambler for over a decade and while she “always felt that I was in control” she nonetheless “needed someone that night to tell me to stop playing and bring me to my senses.” She claimed that if she’d been told to stop, she “would have done so immediately.”
On Friday, the High Court ruled in favor of the casino, awarding it the full £1m it was owed plus interest. Deputy Judge Seys Llewellyn said Al-Daher was fully responsible for her actions and that, as “a person of wealth unimaginable to the ordinary person,” the losses she sustained at the Ritz’s punto banco baccarat tables were well within her ability to repay. In addition to her inherited kajillions, her husband is also well heeled via his personal business interests in Oman.
Llewellyn characterized Al-Daher’s wealth as “an inescapable feature” of the case, observing that, for high-rolling gamblers, “it may be acceptable, or even enjoyable, to ride the roller coaster of losses.” Llewellyn noted that Al-Daher and other family members had gone on to lose around $5m in Las Vegas casinos just a couple months after her spree at the Ritz and that she had displayed “no signs of distress, irritation, anger or loss of control” while at the Ritz.
Al-Daher is said to have wagered over £20m at the Ritz between 1999 and 2012, with the casino reportedly keeping £7m of that sum. But Llewellyn rejected Al-Daher’s claims that the casino had a duty to curtail her gambling, saying “in my judgment, authority does not support such a duty.”