Gala Interactive hit with £2.3m penalty package for social responsibility failures

Gala Interactive is to pay a £2.3m penalty package for breaching regulations which protect consumers, a Gambling Commission investigation has revealed.

The action relates to two ‘VIP’ customers, who displayed problem gambling behaviour in wagering £1.3m of stolen money.

Customer A lost £837,545 in a 14 month period, during which time he placed 842,020 bets, depositing almost £49,000 on one day alone.

Customer B placed 554,954 bets in 11 months, losing £432,765 in total, and one day alone deposited approximately £20,000.

Both high spending customers who used Gala’s online games were later jailed, with customer A receiving a four year jail term for theft while customer B was sentenced to four and a half years for acquiring, using or possessing criminal property.

The penalty package Gala have been handed consists of a £1m payment to fund research into problem gambling, a payment of £1.3m to the victims of both customers and a commitment from the company to “ensure that improvements to social responsibility procedures are implemented promptly to minimise the risk of repetition of the failings identified during this investigation. This will be monitored as part of our planned compliance activity with this operator”.

Gala interactive are also to pay an additional £200,000 to help fund research into problem gambling.

Concluding its statements, the Gambling Commission report stated: “Our investigation found, and Gala Interactive accept, that they failed to put into effect written policies and procedures for customer interaction to deal with situations where they have concerns that a VIP customer’s behaviour may indicate problem gambling.

“Gala Interactive did not effectively interact with customers who were displaying problem gambling behaviour and did not have written policies in place that could have mitigated harm caused by the actions of two ‘VIP’ customers.

“It also failed to ensure that proper records were kept of responsible gambling interactions. An aggravating factor in this case was that Gala Interactive failed to engage effectively with Customer A and Customer B at a time when we were being assured that lessons had been learnt from a previous case.”

This case was aggravated by a previous example regarding similar failings, during which the commission was told that customers of concern would be identified sooner and effectively handled.  The assurance was made during the time that customers A and B were gambling with Gala.

Sarah Harrison, Chief Executive at the Commission, said: “We will continue to take robust action where we see operator failures that harm consumers and the wider public.

“It is the responsibility of all operators – particularly key decision makers in those companies – to ensure they are protecting their customers and step in when there is behaviour that might indicate problem gambling.

“This did not happen in this case and the £2.3m penalty package should serve as a warning to other operators.”

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