888 hit with £7.8 million penalty by Gambling Commission

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888 to pay record fineOne of Britain's biggest online gambling firms has been hit with the record penalty for failing its vulnerable customers.

How did they fail these customers?

Whilst 888 does have self-exclusion procedures in place, they were not robust enough and a technical failure meant the customers were able to continue depositing into their accounts and gamble even though they had opted to self-exclude as they must have felt their gambling was not under control.

Specifically, over 7,000 customers who chose to self-exclude themselves on their casino/ poker/ sports-betting platform were still able to access their accounts on their bingo platform.

Criminal Activity

One particular customer has been highlighted in this investigation by the Gambling Commission. This customer gambled on average 3 to 4 hours per day over a 13 month period. This meant they staked over £1.3 million! Unfortunately, not only was the large-scale gambling and amounts not noticed by 888, the customer had actually stolen £55,000 from their employer to fund some of their bets.

£7.8 million penalty

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.”

The penalty package payable by 888 includes:

£3.5million repayment of deposits made by the self-excluded customers 
£62k compensation to the employer from whom money was stolen. 
£4.25million 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.

Research published by the Gambling Commission on 24th August 2017 already called for renewed focus on addressing the harms which can arise from problem gambling. 

The report's findings:
Tim Miller, Commission executive director, says: “For many, gambling is an enjoyable leisure activity. But for some people gambling can become a problem with serious consequences for them, their families and their communities.
“Whilst overall problem gambling rates in Britain have remained statistically stable, our research suggests that in excess of two million people are at-risk or classed as problem gamblers, with very many more impacted by the wider consequences of gambling-related harm.”
Tim adds: “We have a clear commitment to make gambling fairer and safer and these figures show that this is a significant challenge. Success will depend upon us, the industry, government and others, all working together with a shared purpose to protect consumers. The pace of change to date simply hasn’t been fast enough - more needs to be done to address problem gambling.”

888 Bingo's Responsible Gambling Dos and Don'ts

A quick check of the 888Ladies Bingo website shows they have a few areas where they offer guidance and advice plus measures to help protect their customers from problem gambling. These include:

  • Protection of minors
  • Preventing compulsive gambling
  • Self limits - deposit limits, gaming time limits, autoplay limits, 
  • Self-exclusion - this allows you to exclude yourself from playing for a period set by yourself. This can either be a short "Take a Break" period of up to 6 weeks or a full self-exclusion period of 6 months or more.

They also provide links to software which can restrict access to certain websites and software to either help yourself or protect minors from accessing these.

However, this investigation and subsequent fine raise the question of whether they are doing enough. It would appear they had all the best intentions but the technical loop-hole allowed these players to slip through. We must remember though that this was more than 7,000 players.

Click Here to read more about how gambling may affect people and where they can seek help 





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