Every Gambler’s Dream – But Not Quite There

Every gambler has this dream.  The dream is to get in a time machine and go back a couple of years or more.  Then, walk into the betting shop and bet as much as you can on every event that you can remember the result of.

Gavin Thomson, from Forfar, got as close to this dream as anyone is likely to get, without having access to a time machine. 

The only problem was that his strategy was against the law.

Gavin Thomson was a Coral betting shop employee.  He made over £40,000 in 3 months but he ended up getting caught and he was jailed for a year in September 2018.


Fault in Coral’s Computer System

Gavin Thomson was a manager’s assistant at the Forfar and Dundee Coral branches.  In the summer of 2015, he discovered a fault in Coral’s computer system.  This enabled him to bet on events that had already taken place. 

Basically, he knew the result of the event when he placed his bets.  As such, he was guaranteed to win.

In September 2018, the court was told that he was making up to £1,000 each shift.

In order to “cover his tracks”, he gave associates money to place bets at Coral Bookmakers in Dundee and Forfar.  



In January 2016, a Coral regional risk-assessor conducted an audit at the Forfar branch and found that 64 bets had been placed on events that had already been completed.  These had been processed by Gavin Thomson in Forfar. 

The assessor also found that 55 bets at the Dundee branch had also been placed on completed events.  Again, these had all been processed by Gavin Thomson.

The losses for Coral were £17,500 and £22,800 at the Dundee and Forfar branches, respectively.

Gavin Thomson was suspended from work and interviewed by police. 


The Trial

In September 2018, Thomson stood trial at Dundee Sherriff Court and he pleaded guilty to 2 charges of fraud committed between October 2015 and January 2016. 

Sheriff Alastair Carmichael jailed Thomson for a year.

He said: “The sum involved, and the breach of trust mean I’ve come to the conclusion there’s no option other than custody.

Then, he went on to say, “I take into account that it was a first offence and there has been no offending since.”


Commonality with The Sting (1973)

There is a commonality with this story and the 1973 movie, the Sting.  The concept of betting on an event that has already finished is present in both the movie and the Gavin Thomson case.

In the movie, Johnny Hooker (played by Robert Redford) helps ruthless mob boss Doyle Lonnegan (played by Robert Shaw) to bet on horse races after the races have finished.  


Questions About the Bookmaker

Gavin Thomson was guilty by law.

However, there should also be questions about the bookmaker, Coral.

In court, his defence solicitor Sarah Russo said said that Gavin Thomson had a “gambling addiction”.  The question arises whether bookmakers should be more aware of whether their employees are developing gambling problems.

There was a glitch on the computer that remained undetected for at least 3 months.  That’s a long time for a computer fault to remain undetected.  If it had been detected earlier, it might have reduced the loss for Coral and the sentence for Thomson.  Sheriff Alastair Carmichael did say that the sum of money involved played a part in him giving Thomson a custodial sentence.

Coral have also been involved in 2 glitches in anti-money laundering and social responsibility processes.

In 2016, Gala Coral forfeited £846,000 and they “agreed to take steps to improve its anti-money laundering and social responsibility processes”.  This incident was related to how Gala Coral Group Ltd’s divisions (Coral Racing Limited and Gala Interactive) dealt with a man who confessed to stealing £800,000 from a vulnerable person.

Then, the following year, in 2017, Ladbrokes Coral agreed to pay a £2.3m penalty as a result of 2 customers gambling away approximately £1.3m of stolen money. 

The chances of such incidents occurring might be reduced if more work was put into improving such processes. 

All of these types of incidents hurt the reputation of gambling which is badly in need of a boost. 

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