Chips are down as gambling addict sues casino

JUST how much can we expect others to protect us from the failings in our own human natures? Can we expect damages if we bribed our way around a ban designed to protect us?

An Austrian court has the unenviable task of deciding whether a Viennese gambler deserves damages after he thwarted a casino ban by bribing staff to let him in and place bets.

Viennese businessman Huseyn Kysren was banned from the casino, which lies just yards away from the city's famous Spanish Riding School and also from the Vienna Opera, in December 2005 after losing thousands of pounds at the roulette wheel. However, he found that he could get back in by paying off door staff.

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In all his visits, he claims to have spent 80,000 in bribes in order to get through the door, and through the course of his visits he lost 670,000 on the gambling tables.

Kysren said: "I could not get a grip on my addiction, and by paying bribes of up to 2,000 to the entrance staff, I could get into the casino unhindered."

The taxi firm owner, who is of Turkish origin, is now suing the casino for damages, saying that it is liable because it failed to protect him from his own gambling addiction and caused him to lose even more cash.

Kysren claims that the casino had a duty of care to make sure that staff refused his offers of cash and sent him packing, so as to protect him from his own failings. He argues that such was his problem that his tactics to get into the casino should be seen as a sign of desperation, rather than as a calculating and devious way around the ban.

He even brought his lawyer to the casino with him to witness him getting in by passing money to staff, with the lawyer's testimony forming part of the case.

However, the casino management have denied the claims. They say their entrances are watched by CCTV, and that staff are banned from carrying any cash, which means they would have nowhere to hide bribery money without being caught. The same rules that prevent staff filching money from the kitty and from tables, they insist, also prevent them carrying cash received as bribes.

A casino spokesman said: "Every handshake can be examined. No colleague would be so stupid as to hide money."

In addition to the usual tourist-brochure images of Mozart, elegant buildings, Christmas card scenes and indulgent chocolate cakes, Austrian cities market themselves heavily as locations for up-market gambling.

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While Western European tourists focus more on the opera, palaces and Wiener schnitzels, those from the former Eastern Bloc, as well as the Middle East, are drawn to the wheels and the chips, as well as the opportunity to smoke pretty much where they like - at least compared to much of the rest of Western Europe.

While other Western European countries, including Scotland, have swept tobacco away from nights out, Austria has simply insisted that restaurants, bars and clubs have non-smoking areas. Others can puff away merrily.

All the major cities in the country have major casinos, advertised as featuring the young and super-glamorous decked out as if on the way to a glitzy Viennese ball, laughing around the gaming tables.

However, all these freewheeling good times come at a cost. For all the glamour, the reality is that around 83,000 Austrians are banned from casinos because of gambling addiction. In addition, casinos are instructed to screen their clients for the signs of addiction to Glcksspiele - literally 'games of luck' - the German-language term for gambling games.

But the bans have failed to stop managers being found liable for addicts' debts. Last year, a court in Graz in the south of the country awarded a gambling addict 380,000 in damages after a casino failed to spot that he was an addict and impose a ban on him. The gambler had lost 1.7m in four years.

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