A Black British woman who said she faced race discrimination while working as a dealer at London’s exclusive Aspinalls Casino has won her claim at a UK employment tribunal.
Semhar Tesfagiorgis, whose ethnic origin is Eritrean, worked for the members’-only casino for 13 years until taking voluntary redundancy in October 2020.
During this time, she and other black female dealers were targets of direct discrimination, the tribunal found.
Tesfagiorgis claimed that VIP customers’ abusive and racist behavior towards her and her colleagues was tolerated by casino management in the interests of profit.
The casino refused to ban one wealthy client who used the N-word to refer to Tesfagiorgis, while racist and sexist demands were routinely accommodated.
‘Fair-Skinned Dealers’ Preferred
While the tribunal declined to rule on some of the claims because of time limits, it found “the claimant and her Black female colleagues were held back from going on duty because they were not ‘fair skinned, female dealers’ or ‘Western- looking female staff.’”
The casino, which caters to the VIP gaming segment, has been owned by Australia’s Crown Resorts since 2011.
London’s VIP market has shifted over the past decade under Crown’s ownership. Where it was once dominated by Middle Eastern high rollers, it now caters to an even wealthier, largely East Asian clientele.
But as customers got richer, the discrimination got worse, according to Tesfagiorgis. High rollers could keep millions of pounds on deposit for their gaming session and could be incredibly demanding.
Several clients would demand only “fair skinned dealers,” and Tesfagiorgis was often refused a shift because a player did not like the color of her skin.
When she complained to managers, she was brushed off, while players’ ethnic preferences for dealers were dismissed as harmless superstitious quirks.
Crown Aspinalls argued that its behavior had not been driven by racial discrimination but by “the perception that it was necessary to accommodate patrons’ request, no matter how unreasonable, in order the further the interests of the business.”
The tribunal countered that was not a defense at all. If a supermarket customer asked to buy an expensive quantity of champagne, but only if the checkout operator was white, this would be direct race discrimination, it noted. And the casino’s position was no different. Therefore, it was in breach in the UK Equality Act 2010.
We welcome the tribunal’s judgment, and hope that it enables a root and branch reform of the casino and gaming industry to address the racist and sexist conduct that drove my client out of a career she clearly loved,” Tesfagiorgis’ lawyer Shazia Khan, of Cole Khan Solicitors, told Casino.org Tuesday.
“The judgment forcefully dismissed Crown Aspinalls’ attempt to drive a coach and horses through the Equality Act 2010, and sends a clear message that there is no place for racism and misogyny in the workplace, and that no one is above the law, no matter how deep their pockets.”
The tribunal will decide the compensation Tesfagiorgis is entitled to at a later date.
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