National gambling venue ban for addict who threatened to burn down Bournemouth casino
Monday 21st December 2020
Amir Abol Abolghassem filled a five-litre water container with petrol.
He secreted it into a bag and took it into Genting Casino in Yelverton Road on September 28 by saying it was a birthday present for a member of staff.
Bournemouth Crown Court heard the 59-year-old, who was a familiar face at the venue, made his way up to the balcony area and threw a coffee table to the lower level and began shouting.
The gambling addict told people they should leave the town centre establishment before pouring the fuel and shouting he would "burn it down".
Prosecuting, Tom Evans said the defendant, who had racked up £400,000 in losses, was warned by the manger that people were in the building.
"The defendant told him 'you have got five minutes to get everyone out'," said Mr Evans.
"Police attended and PC (William) Martindale conducted a negotiation with the defendant who was seen to be holding a cigarette lighter in one hand. He was plainly in a distressed state."
Mr Evans said Abolghassem, of Charminster Road, Bournemouth, stated "his life was done" and "places like this (casinos) needed to be burned down". After around 17 minutes of negotiations he finally relented and put the lighter down.
"The defendant then pulled a Stanley knife from his pocket which he held to his neck," said Mr Evans. "Within a couple of minutes PC Martindale calmed him down and arrested him."
Mr Evans said the defendant immediately apologised, stating "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry". He made full and frank admissions in police interview.
Abolghassem admitted charges of possession of a knife and threatening to damage property.
Mitigating, Victoria Hill said: "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.
"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."
Recorder Oba Nsugbe QC said: "It was quite an extreme way in which to send a message of deterrence."
Ms Hill replied that Abolghassem, who had been a head chef at Kayla Brasserie until August of this year, recognised what he did was wrong. The barrister said the defendant had a "long-standing problem" with gambling and two weeks prior to the casino incident he had been in hospital with heart problems.
In sentencing the defendant at a hearing on December 18, the judge said: "What I have heard about you, even in the midst of these serious offences, are acts of kindness."
Recorder Nsugbe added: "Make no mistake that this was a serious offence with the potential for serious damage to that property."
The judge said the offences crossed the custody threshold but handed Abolghassem a sentence of 20 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, having taken into account his guilty plea, personal mitigation and prospect for rehabilitation.
He issued a restraining order banning the defendant from all gambling premises in the UK for 10 years.
n For gambling addiction support and advice, call GamCare on freephone 0808 8020 133 or visit gamcare.org.uk.