The online betting firm 888 Holdings has been penalized by UKGC's Watchdog following their failure to heed to the requests of addicted gamblers who wished to close their accounts. One of them actually staked an alarming amount of £1.3m in this period.
The fine has respectively reached the record amount of £7.8m, given that the company failed to protect more than 7.000 customers.
- Players had used the self-exclusion feature, however, they were still able to access their accounts.
- A technical failure in the company’s systems meant customers who had signed up to self-exclusion were still able to deposit and gamble. (editor's note: still to be verified whether a technical failure existed)
- One of the customers made 850,000 bets worth £1.3m in one year. Part of that money was actually stolen from his employer, something that led to him being sentenced to 16 months in prison for theft and false accounting.
- The UKGC found significant omissions in 888’s efforts to protect its consumers from harming themselves.
In the Gambling Commission’s report on 888, the watchdog said: “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.”
The commission’s chief executive, Sarah Harrison, 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 learned.”
Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, said: “This outrageous case is more evidence of a gambling industry that needs to do more to protect vulnerable customers. With 430,000 problem gamblers in the UK and over 2 million more at risk of addiction, the sector has to take responsibility and help people not to bet more than they can afford.”
Marc Etches, chief executive of the UK’s leading gambling charity, GambleAware, also called on the industry to do more to help problem gamblers. He said: “Clearly this company did not do enough to protect vulnerable customers. The industry is working at improving protection of vulnerable customers and finding ways to intervene. But much more needs to be done and it needs to be done more quickly. This is a sector that represents more than 40% of gambling and will soon be more than 50%. They [the gambling websites] have access to data in a way that offline businesses [such as high street bookmakers] don’t, so they need to up their game.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said: “The Gambling Commission is completely right to take strong action against firms that do not act properly to safeguard consumers. They have a responsibility to protect players and this fine reinforces the message to the sector that failure to do so will be punished.Our review of the gambling sector includes looking at social responsibility within the industry and protection of players and what more could be done in this area.”