Ladbrokes appear to have "groomed" a company director who defrauded a Melbourne concreting business of more than $3 million to feed his gambling direction, a judge says.
Jaicome Spinella admits putting more than $3.1 million of Bauen Concrete's money on his personal Ladbrokes account between December 2016 and July 2017.
When Spinella, who ran the company alongside his brother as well as his friend, came clean, liquidators were called in and about 50 employees lost their jobs.
Liquidators are suing Ladbrokes, owned by UK-based sports betting group Entain, for about $5.1 million in a separate court action.
It's alleged Ladbrokes failed to prevent Spinella from misappropriating funds.
His lawyer Nadia Kaddeche on Monday told Victoria's County Court about internal emails between Ladbrokes staff along the lines of: "gamblers as bad as Jaicome come along once in a lifetime, so make sure we keep him on".
Judge Michael Cahill suggested it sounded like the company had "groomed" Spinella.
"There does appear to be some level of interference ... if not exploitation by Ladbrokes," the judge said.
Spinella, 34, pleaded guilty to one rolled up charge of dishonestly obtaining more than $3.1 million from Bauen.
He was was solely responsible for the company's finances and used its credit card to make 571 separate transactions into his Ladbrokes account over seven months.
"I've done something really, really bad. This will kill mum and dad," Spinella's sister said he told her in mid-2017.
"I think it's just better if I'm not around anymore."
Spinella cooperated with the liquidators, corporate regulator ASIC and police, admitting to "lending himself" $3.1 million and accepting he'd acted to the detriment of the company.
Ms Kaddeche said the gambling escalated because Spinella was trying to earn the money back.
"It was a gambling addiction that became too much for him," the lawyer said.
Spinella moved to Brisbane after the company was liquidated and was diagnosed with a gambling and an alcohol dependency disorder, as well as generalised anxiety.
He travelled to Melbourne to appear in court in person, and was remanded in custody to be sentenced on Friday.
Judge Cahill said a jail term was inevitable given the amount of money misappropriated.