The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has issued a record £7.8m fine to online casino operator 888 holdings after an investigation found serious failings in its handling of vulnerable customers.
Its action follows the discovery of “significant flaws” in processes relating to social responsibility in which the UKGC found that 888 had failed to protect consumers from gambling-related harm.
The first of two major incidences involved came after 7,000 customers who had voluntarily chosen to "self-exclude” themselves from gambling websites were banned from 888's casino, poker sites, and sports betting platform but could still get onto its online bingo platform.
A UKGC investigation found that these customers were able to spend at least £3.5 million over 13 months following the exclusion. In a statement the commission said: “While 888 did have self-exclusion procedures in place, they were not robust enough and failed to protect potentially vulnerable customers”.
Its second serious error involved just one individual customer who had gambled £1.3 million on the site, £55,000 of which had been stolen from his employer. The person in question gambled three to four times a day over a 13 month period.
The UKGC expressed concern that 888 were not able to spot the warnings signs of this customers gambling, saying: "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."
In a statement released with its investigatory report, Sarah Harrison, chief executive at the Gambling Commission said: “Safeguarding consumers is not optional. This penalty package of just under £8million 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.”
Under the terms of the penalty package, 888 will repay the full £3.5million of deposits made by the self-excluded customers and a compensation sum of £62,000 to the employer of the defrauding customer.
A further £4.25million is to be paid to socially responsible causes which tackle gambling-related harm. In addition the UKGC has ordered an independent review of 888’s processes surrounding consumer protection.
888 issued a statement following the publication of the investigations findings saying: “888 has fully cooperated with the UKGC throughout this process and has concluded a voluntary regulatory settlement with the UKGC.”
“888 regrets the historic failings highlighted by the review and accepts the conclusion of the review which recognises the significant lengths that 888 has gone to in order to address the concerns raised and prevent the issues highlighted from reoccurring.”