A high-flying engineer killed himself hours after an online casino ‘groomed’ him with £400 in cash bonuses.
Gambling addict Chris Bruney, 25, lost a total of £119,000 in the five days before his death, but instead of shutting his account Winner.co.uk plied him with cash bonuses and free bets.
His devastated family said they have been denied justice after Winner’s parent company Playtech was asked to pay a fine of just £620,000 – a fraction of its £1.3billion annual turnover.
Yesterday bosses at the online gambling giant apologised to the Bruney family, but no one at Playtech has lost their job. Mr Bruney, from Sheffield, was an electrical engineer on an annual salary of £60,000. In the five days before he died he was given £4,500 in cash bonuses and 120 ‘free spins’ after being designated as a ‘VIP’ player, records passed to the Daily Mail by his family show.
A text sent by a personal account manager ‘Matt’ to his mobile phone three days before his death told him to ‘have a go’, adding ‘they want to let you bet’.
Chris Bruney: The £60,000-a-year engineer lost £119,000 just before his death, but instead of shutting his account Winner.co.uk plied him with cash bonuses and free bets
In a statement due to be published this morning, the Gambling Commission will conclude – after an 18-month investigation – that there were serious breaches of money laundering and player protection rules associated with Mr Bruney’s case.
But the regulator has been unable to levy the full fine, which it said would have been at least £3.5million, because Playtech had already shut the subsidiary which ran the Winner brand.
Mr Bruney’s mother, who did not want to be named, said: ‘I believe Winner and the other companies that Chris gambled with killed my son. We have now been denied justice for our son. We are heartbroken and we have been let down.
Study shows gamblers bet more quickly after losing than winning
Gamblers bet again more quickly after losing than when they are winning, a study has found.
This may be fuelled by frustration, with a losing streak making people more impulsive, researchers believe.
Investigators from Ghent University in Belgium and the University of Lausanne in Switzerland timed people’s bets in a series of computer games.
After losing in one game, participants started the next around 10 to 20 per cent faster on average compared with when they won or received a guaranteed payout. They were also more likely to gamble again after a loss.
‘The commission found failings but no one has been held accountable. We went through an 18-month investigation in the hope of getting justice, but we got nothing. What was the point? Our only hope now is that we have made other people aware of the dangers of gambling companies and their VIP schemes.’
The Mail’s Stop the Gambling Predators campaign continues to call for greater protection for addicts.
The FTSE250 firm told the Mail it ‘takes full responsibility for the breaches’ but it did not accept that Mr Bruney’s death was caused by its failings.
Last night MPs reacted with fury. Labour’s Carolyn Harris, chairman of the all-party parliamentary committee for gambling harm, said: ‘Chris Bruney was groomed to gamble more until he felt he could not live any more, and it is shameful that Playtech has been let off the hook for their role in his death with this measly fine.’
Mr Bruney became addicted to gambling after being lured by a cascade of advertising around the 2014 football World Cup. He opened his account with Winner.co.uk on Boxing Day 2016, and deposited £148,000 over the next few months.
As an ‘Exclusive VIP’ customer Mr Bruney was offered a personal account manager and the opportunity to get cash bonuses of up to £500-a-go. By the night of April 5, 2017, the strain of his addiction had become too much. He left home after midnight, drove to a favourite rural spot in a neighbouring county and took his own life.
He left a harrowing suicide note to his family and partner in which he said ‘it was the gambling’ and that ‘he couldn’t go through it any more’. A coroner ruled that he died by suicide caused in part by the ‘shame of gambling’.
Losing online: Mr Bruney gambled on the Winner site. He opened his account on Boxing Day 2016 and deposited £148,000 over the next few months
The Gambling Commission’s report is expected to say that Winner failed to check Mr Bruney could afford his losses, or was happy with the amount of time he was gambling, as is required in gambling laws. Claire Milne, interim chairman of Playtech, said: ‘Mr Bruney’s death was a tragic event and our deepest sympathies go out to his family for their loss.
‘We sincerely apologise and take full responsibility for the regulatory breaches identified by the Gambling Commission.
‘The failings occurred in a business that is now closed. We have since invested significantly in making sure these types of breaches do not happen again.’
To contact the Samaritans ring freephone 116 123, or to contact the National Gambling Helpline ring freephone 0808 8020 133. The Bruneys have also been supported by the charity Gambling with Lives.
How he was encouraged to keep on betting
DECEMBER 26, 2016
Chris Bruney opens a Winner account and deposits £18,700 over two days.
DECEMBER 28, 2016
A ‘VIP’ manager offers to get Mr Bruney a free Apple Watch as a gift, which he finds ‘really welcoming’.
DECEMBER 29, 2016
An internal Winner email says he has already lost £22,000 but no one contacts him to check he is happy with his losses.
APRIL 3, 2017
Mr Bruney texts his personal account manager: ‘Hi Matt, the max bet on sports seems to be £3,997. Can you expand this on my account?’ He replies: ‘Should be good, I just got approval from trading so chasing the IT bods.’
Mr Bruney: ‘That is great. Will they automatically up the limits on my account?’ The reply: ‘Won’t be automatic straight away, but have a go they want to let you bet.’
APRIL 4, 2017
Mr Bruney deposits £78,000 between 5.11pm and 10.40pm, and is handed £1,260 in bonuses. He places four losing bets on football totalling £18,000.
APRIL 5, 2017
6.58am: Mr Bruney deposits £4,000 and places two losing bets on football, each at odds of 61/1.
9.04am: He is handed a £500 bonus.
7.19pm to 9.36pm: He is given four cash bonuses of £100 each.
9.41pm to 10.36pm: Mr Bruney makes his last five deposits, which total £23,398.
APRIL 6, 2017
Some time after midnight: He drives to a favourite rural spot and take his own life.
6.13am: A £500 bonus is delivered to his account. Records show he had lost £119,000 since April 1.