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London Casino Must Pursue Gambling Debt Claim in Italy, High Court Rules

One of the important protections afforded to consumers under European law is that they are generally entitled to be sued in the country in which they are domiciled. The High Court made that point in ruling that a London casino must pursue its £250,000 debt claim against an Italian entrepreneur in the latter’s native land.

During a trip to London, the entrepreneur had taken advantage of a cheque cashing facility provided to him by the club. According to the club, it was an express term of the facility that it was governed by the laws of England and Wales and that, in the event of dispute, the club could litigate in any court in any jurisdiction.

It was the club’s case that the entrepreneur signed four house cheques in return for £250,000 in gambling chips. He then wrote a personal cheque to clear the balance on his account, but that was subsequently dishonoured. The club had launched proceedings in London, but the entrepreneur had not paid any part of the alleged debt and had yet to present a defence to the claim. In contesting the jurisdiction of the English courts to entertain the club’s claim, however, he argued that, by virtue of Regulation (EU) 1215/2012, he was entitled to be sued in Italy.

In upholding the entrepreneur’s arguments, the Court noted that he was plainly an Italian consumer. The club had, via an agent, invited him to London for gambling purposes, paying all his expenses, including his flights and hotel bills. Although its business was entirely based in London, the club had a policy of using such agents to tout for business in other European member states.

Before the contract with the entrepreneur was concluded, there was evidence that the club was directly involved in commercial activities in Italy and that those activities were intertwined with the contract itself. In the circumstances, the Court declared that the English courts had no jurisdiction and that the club would have to pursue its claim against the entrepreneur in his country of domicile, Italy.