Park Lane Club successfully defends bonus/incentive claim brought against it by “experienced gambler”

Of interest to those who operate ‘top-end’ high-staking London casinos is a High Court judgment delivered on 22 February 2021 in the case of Puharić v Silverbond Enterprises Limited [2021] EWHC 351 (QB).

In May 2015, Mr Juśte Puharić (an “experienced gambler”) attended the Park Lane Club in London. Over a period of five days, he ‘turned over’ a total of £27 million, winning £1.2 million overall.

Mr Puharić alleged that, in addition to his winnings, the Park Lane Club had agreed to pay him a ‘bonus’ or ‘incentive’ of £243,518.59, equivalent to 0.9% of his total turnover of £27,057,621. This was denied by the Park Lane Club.

Mr Puharić alleged, in the alternative, that:

  • even if there was no such agreement, he was put into the Park Lane Club’s default commission scheme and was contractually entitled to be paid the sum of £225,156.17 commission which accrued under that scheme and/or
  • in the event that the Park Lane Club had a discretion as to whether to pay out accrued commission, it breached a number of implied terms restricting the exercise of that discretion.

The Park Lane Club contended that, in the absence of any specific agreement, Mr Puharić had no right to a sum over and above his winnings because the Club’s commission scheme was only a mechanism for generating a fund from which it could choose whether or not to pay an incentive.

In his judgment (that can be accessed here), Gavin Mansfield QC (sitting as a Judge of the High Court) found in favour of the Park Lane Club, concluding that there had been “no concluded agreement reached between the parties about bonuses or incentives … the claimant was paid his winnings and is entitled to no further sum”.

Dismissing the alternative claims, Gavin Mansfield QC concluded that the commission function generated a “pot” from which the Park Lane Club could choose whether or not to make incentives available to a player.

He also concluded that, although various implied terms were pleaded, Counsel for Mr Puharić did not advance that argument on behalf of his client and, in closing, had realistically accepted the difficulties of an argument based on an implied term.