Three gambling businesses owned by the William Hill Group have been fined a total of £19.2m for social responsibility and anti-money laundering failures, the Gambling Commission has announced.
The fines are £12.5m for WHG (International) Limited, which runs williamhill.com, £3.7m for Mr Green Limited, and £3m for the William Hill Organization, which operates more than 1,300 gambling premises across the UK. The £19.2m total exceeds the previous record fine of £17m for the Entain Group – which owns Ladbrokes.com, coral.co.uk and foxybingo.com – last year (www.drinkanddrugsnews.com/gambling-firm-hit-with-record-17m-fine).
The failures listed by the Gambling Commission include having insufficient controls to protect new customers and to ‘effectively consider high velocity spend and duration of play’, with one customer spending £23,000 within 20 minutes after opening a new account and another spending £18,000 within 24 hours – both without any checks.
Others include failing to identify customers at risk of gambling-related harm, failing to intervene early enough, and failure to apply a 24-hour delay before granting a credit limit increase. One customer lost almost £15,000 in just over an hour, another was allowed to immediately place a £100,000 bet when his credit limit had been set at £70,000, and another did not have a telephone interaction until his losses had reached almost £46,000. Operators also failed to obtain source of funds (SoF) evidence from customers staking large amounts of money, including one customer who staked almost £20,000 in a single bet and another who staked almost £277,000 – and lost nearly £25,000 – over two months.
‘When we launched this investigation the failings we uncovered were so widespread and alarming that serious consideration was given to licence suspension,’ said Gambling Commission chief executive Andrew Rhodes. ‘However, because the operator immediately recognised their failings and worked with us to swiftly implement improvements, we instead opted for the largest enforcement payment in our history. In the last 15 months we have taken unprecedented action against gambling operators, but we are now starting to see signs of improvement.’
The government’s much delayed gambling white paper (DDN, March, page 12) is now expected to be published before Easter.
William Hill image: Acabashi, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia C