888, one of Britain’s biggest online gambling firms, is to pay a record penalty package of over £7.8m as a result of what the Gambling Commission has described as ‘serious failings’ in its handling of vulnerable customers.
The action follows the discovery of significant flaws in 888 UK Limited’s (888) social responsibility processes, which aim to protect consumers from gambling-related harm.
The Commission said that it’s investigation found:
- Due to a technical failure in 888’s systems, over 7,000 customers who had chosen to self-exclude from its casino/poker/sport platform were still able to access their accounts on its bingo platform. The issue went undetected for a prolonged period of time, meaning customers were able to deposit £3.5m into their accounts, and then continue to gamble, for over 13 months. While 888 did have self-exclusion procedures in place, they were not robust enough and failed to protect potentially vulnerable customers.
- 888 also failed to recognise visible signs of problem gambling behaviour displayed by an individual customer, which was so significant that it resulted in criminal activity. The customer staked over £1.3m, including £55k stolen from their employer. As a result of the crime, the customer was sentenced to 16 months in prison for theft and false accounting. During a 13 month period the customer placed a large number of bets, gambling on average 3-4 hours a day. The lack of interaction with the customer, given the frequency, duration and sums of money involved in the gambling, raised ‘serious concerns’ about 888’s safeguarding of customers at-risk of gambling harm.
Sarah Harrison, chief executive at the Gambling Commission said: “Safeguarding consumers is not optional. This penalty package of just under £8m reflects the seriousness of 888’s failings to protect vulnerable customers.
“The 888 sanction package will ensure those affected don’t lose out, that the operator pays the price for its failings via a sum that will go to tackling gambling-related harm, and that independent assurance will be given to see that lessons are learnt.”
The penalty package will see 888 pay £7.8m, which includes repayment of the £3.5m of deposits made by the self-excluded customers and compensation of £62k to the employer from whom money was stolen. A further £4.25m will be paid to a socially responsible cause to invest in measures to tackle gambling-related harm. In addition, for future assurance, the Commission has ordered an independent audit of 888’s processes relating to customer protection.
In a statement to the stock market, 888 said: “The company has been working cooperatively with the UKGC throughout its review and has concluded a voluntary regulatory settlement with the UKGC. The company accepts the conclusion of the review and is committed to providing players with a responsible as well as enjoyable gaming experience.”
Social Responsibility – Making improvements in player protection is a session at next month’s Betting on Sports conference. Find out more by clicking here .