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Trouble at The Ritz: Omani Politician’s Wife Loses and Sues

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After losing a fortune at the punto banco table, Nora Al-Daher claimed casino staff “took advantage” of her.

The Ritz is the centre of attention in British gambling news these days and it’s not because of the casino’s new promotions or some fancy new investment. 50 year-old Nora Al-Daher, who’s married to a politician from the Sultanate of Oman, is suing the exclusive London club.

After a few hours at the punto banco table, the woman blew a jaw-dropping GBP 2 million. It all happened in April 2012, but now she claims she wouldn’t have lost all that money if it hadn’t been for the casino staff’s trickery. According to Nora Al-Daher, employees took advantage of her gambling addiction and encouraged her to play.

“No one told me to stop”

Famous casinos located in London include:

•The Colony Club
•Crockfords
•The Palm Beach
•The Ritz
•The Victoria Casino

When she arrived at The Ritz on April 3, Mrs. Al-Daher, wife of Omani Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr bin Hamad bin Hamood Al-Busaidi, had already lost a substantial amount of money.

The woman recently appeared in front of the London High Court and told the judge that Ritz employees were made aware of her gambling addiction, but still encouraged her to spend more. They actually stood behind her at the table, urging her to keep playing, she said.

The woman allegedly told staff she didn’t want to gamble, but she ended up at the punto banco table anyway. Her losses grew bigger and bigger, and in just a few hours she had reached her GBP1.7 million cheque-cashing limit. The casino then extended her cheque-cashing facility, to allow her to spend even more and soon afterwards she was GBP 2 million down.

“I needed someone that night to tell me to stop playing and bring me to my senses,” Nora Al-Daher testified in front of the court. “If I had been told to stop, of course I would stop immediately. No one ever told me to stop or think about my gambling.”

A disaster that could have been avoided

According to barrister Robert Deacon, employees should not have allowed her to play, since the woman had told them she was an addict.

“As her losses mounted, staff encouraged her to continue, saying she was going to win and that her facility would be increased to GBP 2 million,” he told Judge Anthony Seys Llewellyn, adding that instead of telling her to stop, they kept handing her pre-written cheques.

“Staff positively encouraged her when she was losing, saying ‘…anything for you, Princess Nora… we trust you… no problem… relax… don’t worry… next time you will get your money back…’”

Nora Al-Daher testified that she would have stopped before losing all that money, if she hadn’t been offered more facilities. “I asked for more money and they said ‘yes’. I continued to play from the same book and with the same dealer. They should have discouraged me, but instead they took advantage of me,” she said.

Unpaid debt

The case reached the High Court because the casino initially sued Mrs. Al-Daher for GBP 1million, after some of the cheques she had left there were not honored. But the defendant thinks the claim should fail, because the casino had allowed her to play on credit, which is illegal under British gambling laws.

The casino denied all accusations and insisted that no one pressured her to place more bets. And besides, Mrs. Al-Daher had no complaints until recently and even paid GBP 1 million of her debt nine months after losing the money.

Roger Maris, chief executive officer at The Ritz, said there was nothing unusual about increasing the cheque-cashing facility of a high stakes gambler. It wasn’t until months later that the company realized some of the cheques had not been honored.

This is not the first time when Mrs. Al-Daher leaves a share of her fortune at the Ritz. The court heard she takes frequent trips to London and she also said she had first realized she was an addict in 1999. Even so, between 1999 and April 2012, she lost more than GBP 7 million at the casino.

The hearing continues.

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