Paul Kanolik

Partner & Solicitor

DATE PUBLISHED: 02 Mar 2022 LAST UPDATED: 23 May 2022

Gambling Commission fines 888 UK Limited £9.4million

On 1 March 2022, the Gambling Commission announced that they have fined 888 UK Limited (“888”) following a series of failures to comply with their License Conditions and Codes of Practice (“the LCCP”). The LCCP provides measures for betting operators to comply with, with the purpose of ensuring that they have implemented their own policies and procedures to help protect customers and avoid money laundering. 888 on this occasion failed with their anti-money laundering and social responsibility practices.

888 had already been fined £7.8million in 2017 for their failure to protect vulnerable customers. Details of which can be found here.

Over the last few years, the Gambling Commission has also sanctioned various other betting operators for failings of the LCCP. These include but are not limited to:-

  • Daub Alderney Limited – £7.1million
  • Casumo Services Limited – £5.85million
  • Mr Green Limited – £3million
  • Betway Limited – £11.6million
  • Caesars Entertainment UK Limited – £13million

The fines and penalties issued and financial settlements reached with betting operators in 2022 up to 1 March already total £12,802,313 and it is likely that this will increase further throughout the year.

888 have not only been fined but have also received an official warning from the Gambling Commission as well as an extensive audit into their policies and practices. It has been confirmed by the Chief Executive of the Gambling Commission that …if there is a repeat of the failures at 888 then we have to seriously consider the suitability of the operator to uphold the licensing objectives and keep gambling safe and crime-free.”

The findings of the Gambling Commission included:-

Social Responsibility failures

  • “Not effectively identifying players at risk of harm because their policies determined financial \checks should be carried out after a customer had deposited £40,000;
  • Not carrying out a customer interaction with a customer who lost £37,000 in a six week period during the Covid-19 pandemic;
  • Not taking into account the Commission’s formal guidance on customer interaction;
  • Giving a customer they knew was an NHS worker earning £1,400 a month a monthly deposit cap of £1,300;
  • Most of the interactions conducted predominately consisted of an email just detailing the responsible gambling tools and did not require a customer response;
  • During a Commission assessment there was no evidence of the operator proactively placing restrictions on accounts where social responsibility concerns were raised;
  • Not ensuring that if a customer has multiple accounts those accounts are managed for customer interaction holistically and financial limits can be implemented across all accounts. In one example, a customer had one of his 11 accounts restricted because of Source of Funds (“SOF”) concerns, but he was allowed to open three more accounts and continue gambling.”

Anti-money laundering failings:

  • “Implementing a policy where customers were allowed to deposit £40,000 before carrying out SOF checks;
  • Accepting verbal assurances from customers as to employment income and being reliant on open-source information to validate SOF;
  • Not setting out which documents should be requested as part of SOF checks;
  • Allowing one customer to spend £65,835 in just 5 months without SOF checks being carried out;
  • Not effectively implementing its own policies which stated that customers have 10 days to present SOF documentation before their account was restricted. In one case a customer’s SOF were not requested until three weeks after the 10 day trigger and lost £15,000 during that period.”

You can view the Gambling Commission’s full publication detailing their findings and sanctions here.

What has and is being done about the law in relation to safer gambling?

Although the Gambling Commission can impose fines and sanctions and investigate various betting operators, they are unfortunately unable to intervene on behalf of individual customers to force betting operators to refund customers their money back.

In July 2019, the Gambling Commission introduced the “Customer interaction – formal guidance for remote gambling operators”. This provides betting operators with further guidance in relation to their duties and responsibilities in ensuring that customers are fully interacted with to avoid them suffering from gambling related harm. It provides detailed information on the signs that betting operators should be looking out for and also, what they should do to ensure that customers are not allowed to gamble beyond their means. Full information of this guidance can be found here.

The Gambling Commission also continues to update the LCCP with a view to putting new and effective measures in place to minimise gambling related harm, the most recent LCCP having been updated in 2020.

The Gambling Act 2005 is outdated and the current legal framework requires updating in order to reflect changes in the industry and technology. There is a balancing act which will need to be achieved in order to protect vulnerable customers without creating overly burdensome barriers on operators and customers who are not experiencing gambling-related harms.

Since December 2020, there has been an ongoing review by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (“DCMS”) about reforming the current law. It is suggested that there will be no update about this until around May this year (updates have already been delayed several times). Although there is no information as to what reforms are going to be made to the current Gambling Act 2005, there is an indication that there may be stricter source of funds checks to prevent gambling addicts and vulnerable people from falling into financial harm and experiencing substantial losses.

In addition, there has also been much discussion about a Gambling Ombudsman being setup, with current alternative dispute providers such as IBAS and eCOGRA not having the requisite jurisdiction or means to deal with complaints concerning social responsibility failings. The introduction of a Gambling Ombudsman would help to hold betting operators accountable for their failings and provide customers with the means to have complaints resolved by an independent adjudicator.

How can Ellis Jones help you?

We recognise that there is currently a gap in the current legislation surrounding the ways in which customers can take action against betting operators who have breached their licensing requirements.

At Ellis Jones, we specialise in dealing with gambling claims and complaints and in helping our clients recover the monies that they have lost as a result of the failings of betting operators. To date, we have successfully recovered over £4m for clients and are continuing to actively pursue court claims and complaints on behalf of clients to recover their losses.

If you have experienced struggles with your gambling, have suffered financial loss as a result and feel that your betting operator should have done more to protect you, please get in touch with the Betting and Gaming Disputes Team at Ellis Jones at bettingclaim@ellisjones.co.uk. We would also recommend that anyone who may be suffering from gambling related harm seeks independent medical and addiction specialist assistance and considers implementing some of the various tools available to reduce such harm. Details of some of these can be found here.

How can we help?

When you submit this form an email will be sent to the relevant department who will contact you within 48 hours. If you require urgent advice please call 01202 525333.

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