In the United Kingdom, online gambling operator 888 Holdings has reportedly voluntarily agreed to pay a record fine of just over $10 million after it was found wanting in terms of its protections of vulnerable customers.
According to a report from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the nation’s Gambling Commission regulator found “significant flaws” in the firm’s social responsibility processes and highlighted a technical failure that meant 7,000 players that had previously chosen to bar themselves were still able to gamble using the operator’s online bingo platform.
Sarah Harrison, Chief Executive Officer for the Gambling Commission, reportedly told the BBC that the penalty would ensure that “lessons are learnt”. She moreover revealed that about $4.5 million of the amount would be used to repay deposits made by self-excluded customers that had still been able to gamble.
“Our requirements are that every company must provide the facility for every customer to be able to bar themselves from gambling,” Harrison told the BBC. “These 7,000 looked to do that. But 888 [Holdings] didn’t deliver it as effectively as they should have done.”
The Gambling Commission reportedly also pointed to one individual case in which a customer had wagered more than $1.6 million, which had included approximately $71,000 that had been stolen from their employer. This player is alleged to have gambled for three to four hours a day and placed a large number of bets over a 13-month period before being identified as having a problem.
The regulator reportedly determined that this situation had arisen due to a “lack of interaction with the customer” and that it had raised “serious concerns” regarding 888 Holdings’ ability to safeguard “customers at-risk of gambling harm”. It declared that around $80,100 of the fine would be used to compensate the employer while another $5.5 million is to be paid to a socially responsible cause that invests in measures to tackle gambling-related harm.
“There are around two million people now in [Great] Britain who either are problem gamblers or are at risk of problem gambling,” Harrison told the BBC. “Companies are beginning to put different practices in place to identify people right up front but more needs to be done. We need to go further and we need to go faster.”
For its part, 888 Holdings stated that it had “fully cooperated” with the Gambling Commission throughout the investigation and regretted the “historic failings highlighted by the review”. It further explained that it had accepted the findings of the review, which moreover recognized the “significant lengths” it has undertaken to prevent “the issues highlighted from reoccurring”.
“888 [Holdings] is absolutely committed to a proactive policy of corporate and social responsibility that reflects the high professional and ethical standards we set for ourselves across the business,” read a statement from 888 Holdings. “Conducting business responsibly is fundamental to the future success of 888 [Holdings] and we understand that a responsible approach is both the correct way to do business and one that enhances credibility with all stakeholders, thereby supporting 888 [Holdings’] development. We will continue to focus on improvement in the area of responsible gaming to ensure we offer the most enjoyable and safest customer experience possible.”