Barman with online gambling addiction avoids conviction for theft

A man with an online gambling addiction sought to cover debts by shortchanging his employer while working in the bar of one of the country’s best-known hotels.

Brian O’Donovan was working as a barman at the Inchydoney Lodge and Spa near Clonakilty in Co Cork when he was detected giving wrong change and free drinks on the night of November 5/6 last.

The 26-year-old, of An Tobarain in Clonakilty, appeared at Clonakilty District Court yesterday on charges of theft.

Insp Fergal Foley, prosecuting, said a complaint had been made in respect of Mr O’Donovan when he was working at a social event. 

He said checks on CCTV and a review of bill receipts had identified 17 incidents of petty theft, including free drinks being given out, items not being fed into the register, and wrong change being given. Losses to his employer totalled €300.

Insp Foley told Judge James McNulty that Mr O’Donovan had been totally co-operative and had made full admissions when contacted by gardaí and to his employer. He had lost his job as a consequence but said that the defendant had not benefitted financially.

However, Mr O’Donovan’s solicitor Jim Brooks said that his client had benefitted financially “to some degree” and noted: “He had a gambling problem.”

Mr Brooks said Mr O’Donovan was a young man from a good background who had been highly thought of by his employer. He said his client immediately set about trying to solve his problems and had written a letter of “abject apology” to his employers.

The court heard Mr O’Donovan had also been referred to and was working with an addiction counsellor, that the hotel had been fully compensated, and that the incident had been “totally out of character”. 

There was also a letter of support from the secretary of his local GAA club.

Mr Brooks said his client’s parents were also monitoring their son against any “slippage” into the “dangerous past time of online gambling”.

Judge McNulty said the court acknowledged all the facts in mitigation, including no previous convictions, his fulsome apology and the remedial action taken to address his addiction.

“Gambling is sadly a very common and increasingly common problem, particularly among young men,” Judge McNulty said. 

“What makes it so dangerous is the insidious nature of the addiction.”

The court discharged Mr O’Donovan on a Probation Bond without supervision for three years.

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