Teddy Sagi, jailbird pornographer behind Britain’s crack cocaine gambling …

  • Mail investigation reveals Teddy Sagi is king of fixed-odds betting terminals
  • His company Playtech is behind the majority of software used by High Street bookmakers
  • Sagi was once pictured arm in arm with supermodel Bar Refaeli in 2009
  • Ladbrokes alone took £1 billion from the terminals in just one month

By
Steve Bird

16:46 EST, 18 April 2014


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20:54 EST, 18 April 2014

As a billionaire playboy, Teddy Sagi revels in his reputation as one of Britain’s most ­eligible and wealthy bachelors. He can certainly boast of ­having had romances with some of the most beautiful women in the world.

But what the businessman — who has a ­sprawling home in Knightsbridge — should ­perhaps be less proud of is that he made much of his vast fortune by exploiting the poorest and most ­vulnerable people in the country.

Today, a Mail investigation can reveal that he is the king of the fixed-odds betting terminals that have brought such misery to so many — the so-called crack cocaine of the gambling world. Sagi’s company, Playtech, is behind the ­majority of software used by High Street ­bookmakers where people, often from the most deprived areas, pump billions of pounds a year into the machines.

Supermodel and the gambling king: Bar Refaeli with Teddy Sagi

Supermodel and the gambling king: Bar Refaeli with Teddy Sagi

Ladbrokes alone took £1 billion on the terminals in just one month as punters addicted to the ‘games’ — which typically ­simulate roulette — wagered up to £100 every 20 seconds on a single spin.

As the Mail revealed yesterday, a new poll shows nearly half of all voters believe the terminals should be banned, while 73 per cent want the maximum bet of £100 dramatically reduced.

This pernicious presence in ­hundreds of High Streets is a direct result of Labour relaxing gambling regulations in 2001, which opened the floodgates for ­digital roulette games to be played in betting shops.

Since then the number of fixed-odds machines has rocketed to 33,000 — with Playtech providing the technology for more than 20,000 of them.

They have been blamed for an increase in problem gambling, and are said to have an almost hypnotic effect that leaves players like ‘zombies’.

Roger Radler, from Marlow, ­Buckinghamshire, blames his addiction to these machines for him losing his six-figure salary job as a business development manager in London, as well as the collapse of his marriage.

He ended up amassing £60,000 of debts, which he kept secret from his wife. At one point he was sleeping on a park bench.

‘You can try for a new “high” every 20 seconds, but then you find you are losing huge sums of money,’ he says. ‘At its worst, I probably lost a month’s salary in a couple of hours. It was horrendous.’

This, then, can be the human cost of the betting machines — yet still Teddy Sagi’s company Playtech ­unashamedly states its software can help book­makers ‘manage your players ­throughout the player’s life-cycle’, describing how a gambler can play on a machine in a betting shop, and then ‘when he is ready to move on, he can continue the game on his smartphone and tablet device in the comfort of his own home’.

While it is bad enough that Sagi has helped turn Britain into a nation of gamblers, even more ­disturbing is the fact that he learned some of the tricks of his controversial trade from the world of internet pornography.

A fixed odds betting terminal, which are often found in High Street bookmakers

A fixed odds betting terminal, which are often found in High Street bookmakers

Not only that, I have established he is a convicted criminal who comes from a family with a murderous past.

Born in Tel Aviv in 1972, Sagi became accustomed to the finer things in life. His father ran a travel agency and his parents appeared in newspaper ­gossip columns. But he and his ­family were to find far greater notoriety for their criminal activities.

In 1983, Sagi’s older stepbrother, Ronen, was convicted of the ­murder of an investment consultant. There was little doubt about his guilt — he stole his father’s gun, fitted a silencer and fired ten bullets at his victim after a disagreement believed to be about money.

Then in 1994, when Teddy Sagi was just 22, he was arrested along with seven other businessmen on suspicion of insider trading. They were charged with buying and then manipulating the value of stock in a widespread banking fraud.

Sagi, one of the youngest among those arrested, admitted grave deceit, bribery and insider trading. He was jailed for nine months.

When he was released, he became hellbent on making his fortune. He teamed up with his father trading on the stock market and buying and selling property. But he realised the internet was the means to make large sums, regardless of the ­morality of how the money is made.

As he said in one of his few public statements, ‘sex and betting are the most profitable businesses on the internet’.

Sagi invested in companies building pornographic websites. He was also eager to seek out those at the forefront of developing software.

In 1999, he invested in a company called Unlimited9, which was involved in setting up ­pornographic sites. That same year, he launched Playtech in a bid to become the ­biggest online gambling ­software developer. He sought out the brightest mathematicians and ­specialists who could develop games that would maximise profits.

Just seven years later, the ­company was valued at £550 million when it floated on the London Stock Exchange. Still in his early 30s, Sagi had joined the ranks of the world’s super-rich.

Ladbrokes alone took £1billion on betting terminals in just one month (file picture)

Ladbrokes alone took £1billion on betting terminals in just one month (file picture)

Since then, the company has gone from strength to strength — two years ago its share price was 312p, but by last month it had soared to 814p. Sagi announced recently that he will sell a 15.4 per cent stake in his company, giving him a payout  of £326 million.

Today, he is estimated to be worth more than £1 billion, much of it from his licensing deals for ­gambling software with the likes of William Hill and Ladbrokes.

While Sagi does not directly take a cut from gamblers pumping money into the betting machines, he is believed to have considerable financial interests in a number of High Street bookmakers.

He certainly knows the importance of ­hiring the best computer geeks to develop his software.

Crucially, fixed-odds betting ­terminals are said to be addictive because they tempt the player back with just the right level of rewards.

While a gambler may start off ­winning, the odds are likely to be against him in the long term.

Also, if someone goes to a casino to play roulette, a single bet can take a few minutes to complete: on a ­roulette game in a High Street ­bookies, it’s over in just 20 seconds.

Professor Natasha Dow Schull, a specialist in the way technology is being harnessed by gambling firms, believes the machines made by the likes of Sagi are ‘odious’ and should be banned.

Sagi was photographed arm in arm with supermodel Bar Refaeli, pictured in 2009

Sagi was photographed arm in arm with supermodel Bar Refaeli, pictured in 2009

‘The software in these machines taps into a fundamental part of human psychology, exploiting ­people for maximum profit,’ says the American academic and author of a book called Addiction By Design.

‘Essentially, people playing them are being manipulated by mathematicians who have worked out how to up the ante and keep you gambling, with just the right level of reward-to-risk ratio.

‘Sophisticated digital technology and ­mathematics are used to match the way the human brain and our ­psychology work. It makes people addicts.’

Labour MP Tom Watson says: ‘These machines have turned every High Street into a digital casino. They are a menace to communities up and down the country.’

While fixed-odds betting ­terminals have brought financial havoc to many lives, Teddy Sagi has lived high on the profits of his enterprises.

Unlike the users of his games, Sagi has received excellent returns on his penchant for risk. ­According to one Israeli newspaper, he ‘likes risk as much as he likes the good life’.

Pressure has increased on the Government to take some kind of action to curb the use of betting terminals (file picture)

Pressure has increased on the Government to take some kind of action to curb the use of betting terminals (file picture)

As well as that luxury home in Central London, he has properties in Cyprus, Berlin, Israel and the U.S., and recently splashed out on a Bombardier luxury private jet.

When I visited his home in Knightsbridge this week to request an interview, I was told by security staff at the heavily guarded ­complex that Sagi was a ‘very busy and very ­private man’ and was probably away.

He did not respond to a letter inviting him to talk to me, nor did his public relations ­representatives return my calls.

But he has not been quite so shy when it has come to pursuing some of the world’s most beautiful women.

In 2009, he made gossip columns around the world when he was ­photographed arm in arm with the Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli, who had just split up with the Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio.

That same year, the couple posed for photographs at an after-show party when he took her to Berlin to watch a concert by Britney Spears.

There were also rumours that he was dating Esti Ginzburg, a model who has regularly appeared in a swimsuit in Sports Illustrated  magazine.

He had a child, now eight, with a former beauty queen, and is now seeing a former Miss Israel, with whom he’s had a ­second child.

But the couple have not ­married and Sagi still gets listed in the media as one of the most ­eligible bachelors around.

According to one associate, he revels in his wealth.

‘He likes to have fun. He likes the good life. He takes long holidays and likes to spend his leisure time ­watching football or films. He enjoys playing the piano and ping pong.’

Recently, Sagi raised his profile further in Britain with the purchase of London’s iconic Camden Market for £400 million.

Whether gambling machines will continue to be such a cash cow for him remains to be seen, as pressure increases on the Government to take some kind of action to curb their use.

But then, thanks to gambling, Teddy Sagi has already played the odds — and is a very big winner indeed.


Comments (45)

Share what you think

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

algerialynx,

Algeria,

37 minutes ago

Good on the lad. He pays his tax so no problem with him.

redleg3600,

Colorado Springs, United States,

37 minutes ago

Can’t blame a fella for doing what it takes to score the hot young ones.

Tom,

Watford,

40 minutes ago

These machines should be highly taxed and taxes on all gambling shod be increased. Same for smoking.
Give average working people a corresponding tax reduction on income tax.

poor worker,

Aldershot,

41 minutes ago

If you play on these or smoke crack as suggested in the title then that’s up to you. It’s your choice not for the nanny state or DM to judge. Personally I do neither as I work hard for my money and what little I have left after tax I spend on my family.

ladyblue,

Northants,

48 minutes ago

It was Tessa Jowell who, as ‘culture’ minister, crassly opined that those who objected to super-casinos and relaxation of gambling laws were ‘anti- working class’. Clearly words whispered in her ear by the vested interests of the gambling industry. If ever anyone was in the pockets of that industry it was the Labour government.

Paul L,

Wellington, New Zealand,

51 minutes ago

How about people taking some personal responsibility rather than blaming machines that THEY put their money into?

mrarmageddon,

Aberdeen, United Kingdom,

56 minutes ago

Why is no one allowed to be responsible for their own actions anymore? I go into the bookies regularly to bet on football and the 2-3 times I’ve played a machine I’ve never put in more than £10. If you can’t afford to lose it….then why are you giving it to a machine?

The people who want these machines banned will be the same ones squealing when bookmakers lose a lot of money, close many shops and are made personally to pick up the gaping taxation loss that banning them would cause.

Mike,

London,

59 minutes ago

Sure she’s interested in him for his good looks and charm

Hellen Baker,

England, United Kingdom,

1 hour ago

Gambling is a compulsion and if you want to protect everyone from potentially dangerous compulsions then you had better remove every cleaning product from every shelf, from every shop everywhere in the country. I have no problem with these machines being banned outright, It won’t make any difference to those already in the grip of a gambling compulsion and will stop others being caught up in one. Just lets not pretend that gamblers have no control over the situation. they do.

katfish-no-no,

lake side park, United Kingdom,

1 hour ago

people have fallen victim to an algorithm and not the physical laws of chance, anyone who lost on one of these things should seek redress in law for loss and damages.

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Article source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2608016/Exposed-jailbird-pornographer-Britains-crack-cocaine-gambling-machines.html

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