Leeson gambles on casino website

By Chris Gray
Monday 17 November 2003 01:00

Nick Leeson gambled £800m on the stock market and lost, so his latest decision to take on all comers at poker hardly seems prudent.

The man who broke Barings Bank is being dangled as easy prey for card sharks on a new gambling website.

Leeson, who lost $100m (£59m) in one day on the Singapore foreign exchange, is the first person to play on Celebpoker.com. The website, launched last night, offers punters the chance to win money from celebrities.

Leeson was hired to sit at the virtual casino's poker tables because of his reputation as the world's biggest gambler with a knack for losing money.

David Donovan, the managing director of Celebpoker.com, said Leeson's notoriety as the trader who hid losses worth more than the assets of Barings Bank appeals to gamblers wanting to brag about winning money from a celebrity.

Mr Donovan, a friend of Leeson, hopes the chance to exchange e-mails with celebrities will attract online gamblers bored with playing anonymous opponents. He plans to have the snooker player Jimmy White play next month as well as the comedian Kenny Lynch, the magician Michael "the Jish" Feighan and possibly members of the England rugby team.

Leeson, who was jailed for fraud after going on the run from Singapore, said yesterday before his first game that he had been practising poker and was convinced he would have better luck at cards than on the stock market. "I think I will do better," said Leeson, whose stakes were restricted to $500 by Mr Donovan. "I never played poker until 18 months ago, and I have not really sat down and played people face to face. Online it is a little bit different, but it is still quite a real environment."

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