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Gambler tries to claw back wife’s lost R5.2m, but casino triumphs

A man who pursued a novel court application aiming to compel Sun International to pay back the R5.2 million he lost while gambling at its casino has lost. Image:Darrin Zammit Lupi/ REUTERS

A man who pursued a novel court application aiming to compel Sun International to pay back the R5.2 million he lost while gambling at its casino has lost. Image:Darrin Zammit Lupi/ REUTERS

Published May 27, 2022

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A man who pursued a novel court application aiming to compel Sun International to pay back the R5.2 million he lost while gambling at its casino has lost.

Suhail Essack, a Gauteng businessman, lost money belonging to his wife during a gambling spree at a popular casino in Sun City, North West.

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He resorted to the South Gauteng High Court, Johannesburg, to argue that Sun International had to pay back all R5.2m because he was designated as an excluded person from all gaming entities in Gauteng and nationally.

Essack was designated as such from November 6, 2017. The exclusion was done at his own request.

The designation was done in terms section 14 of the National Gambling Act.

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The piece of legislation allows individuals to register themselves for exclusion from gambling activities. Interested parties can also apply in court for a person’s exclusion.

The act mandates the National Gambling Board to establish and maintain a national register of excluded persons.

Essack submitted that he obtained free and unfettered access to the casino at Sun City despite his designation.

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Furthermore, he submitted that the casino permitted him to use his wife’s bank card despite knowing that he did not own it.

He argued that Sun International’s conduct, in allowing him to gamble despite the designation, constituted a breach of its statutory duty.

Essack’s papers stated that Sun International “owed” him a “duty of care to ensure that (he) does not obtain access to its casino for purposes of engaging in gambling activities”.

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Opposing Essack, Sun International maintained that he had no case against it.

The group submitted that Essack’s particulars of claim failed to raise cause of action. It brought an exception application asking for dismissal of the application against it.

In a judgment delivered this week, Acting Judge Andy Bester found in Sun International’s favour. He pointed out that Essack gambled in his own accord, despite the statutory designation his case relied on.

“Sight should not be lost of the fact that the first plaintiff is the author of his own misfortune,” said Judge Bester.

“Having voluntarily placed himself on the list of people excluded from gambling, he nonetheless went to the Sun City Casino and, on his own version, lost a substantial amount of money.

“The plaintiff’s proposition implies that a compulsive gambler may retain his winnings when transgressing the regulations but hold the licensee of the gambling establishment liable for his losses.

“Such a lopsided approach does not serve the purpose of the provision, and is not in the public interest.”

Judge Bester found that the National Gambling Act did not stipulate that a plaintiff like Essack should be afforded a civil remedy where a casino fails to adhere to the exclusion prescripts.

“… I conclude that the particulars of claim do not disclose a cause of action against the first defendant. The exception (application) should thus be upheld, with costs,” Judge Bester ruled.

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