If you want to witness aberrant human behaviour, a casino is a good place to start. The stress of losing large sums of money—often enhanced with copious amounts of alcohol–is enough to make some folks lose their minds.

In extreme cases, the end result is tragic. For example, the 2016 incident at a Kenyan casino where two employees were hacked to death by a sword-wielding patron. Moments later, the man was lynched by a crowd of onlookers before he could claim a third victim.

Fortunately, most casino drama doesn’t end with fatalities. Instead, it can usually be described with words such as “embarrassing” or “somewhat illegal.” Take this case, for example…

The Big Payback

On September 28th, 59-year-old Amir Abol Abolghassem made his way down Yelverton Road towards the Genting Casino in Bournemouth. This didn’t come as a surprise to anyone, as Abolghassem was a regular sight at the English coastal casino.

There were, however, a couple of possible red flags. Unfortunately, the casino staff overlooked or outright ignored them.

The first was the fact that he’d recently lost 400,000 pounds at the casino. The second was that he walked through the doors carrying a bag.

He explained away the latter by saying it contained a birthday present for one of the employees. Since he was friendly with many of the staff, nobody raised an eyebrow.

Burn This Mutha Down

Once inside, he made his way to the upper levels of the building. He stepped out onto a balcony area, picked up a coffee table, and heaved it down to the first floor.

Customers started looking around to see the source of the commotion. That’s when they spied a shouting Abolghassem. He warned people to leave, noting that he was going to “burn it down.” Somewhere around this time, he produced a can of petrol, which was the true contents of his bag.

When the casino manager encountered Abolghassem, the irate patron told him, “You have five minutes to get everyone out.” Instead, the manager immediately phoned the police.

Roulette table engulfed in flames

Holding a Roulette Table Hostage

As some customers headed to the exit, and others simply gawked, Abolghassem turned his attention to a nearby roulette table. The five litre petrol can was by his side when he produced a cigarette lighter.

That’s when the police showed up.

This led to a 17-minute standoff, in which PC William Martindale tried to convince him to put down the lighter. Meanwhile, Abolghassem bemoaned his fate, saying that “his life was done” and that “places like this need to be burned down.”

He finally put the lighter down, but that was replaced by a knife from his pocket. He held the knife to his own throat, but PC Martindale was eventually able to talk him down before taking the suspect into custody.

Fortunately, Mr. Abolghassem never used the lighter or cut himself. He was charged with knife possession and threatening to damage property.

The Verdict

On Monday, the formerly irate gambler went before the judge to receive his sentence. Abolghassem had been apologetic ever since being taken into custody, and defence barrister Victoria Hill blamed the incident on a number of factors.

“It is the defendant’s gambling addiction, the death of his mother and sister, his health problems, his loss of employment and the effect of lockdown that led to the very desperate state that he was in on the day that he committed the offences,” she said.

“It would appear that these offences were carried out with a misguided attempt to show others that that particular casino was not a good place to visit. He didn’t want others to end up in the sorry state that he was.”

Judge Oba Nsugbe decided to cut him some slack, saying “What I have heard about you, even in the midst of these serious offences, are acts of kindness.” He gave Abolghassem a 20-month prison sentence but reduced it to two years’ probation. In addition, he must stay out of all UK gambling establishments for the next 10 years.

Judge Nsugbe noted the genuine remorse shown by the defendant, as well as the individuals who spoke on his behalf. He also showed solid prospects for rehabilitation, which is what ultimately led to the lenient sentence.

Additional Reading

For more gambling news articles, please see the following:

  • South Australians Rush Back to Pokies
  • Man Sentenced for Gambling Related Kidnapping
  • Negative Reaction to NSW Cashless Pokies
  • NSW Considering Gambling Marshals