888 fined record £7.8m by the UK Gambling Commission

The UK Gambling Commission has issued a record £7.8m fine on gambling provider 888 for failing to prevent known problem gamblers from using its online service. The penalty comes for what the UK’s gambling industry’s watchdog claims are ‘serious failings and significant flaws in 888 UK Limited’s social responsibility processes’.

Chief executive of the gambling commission Sarah Harrison

The Gambling Commission’s chief executive wants to see lessons learned from this failure. © The Guardian

The fine is the result of a four-month investigation by the Gambling Commission into 888’s social responsibility processes, which should aim to protect its customers from gambling-related problems or harm. Improvements in player protection and social responsibility are a common theme recently and the size of the fine reflects the seriousness with which the gambling industry’s regulatory body takes any failings in the area. t Speaking on the penalty, Sarah Harrison, Chief Executive at the Gambling Commission, said:

Safeguarding customers is not optional. This penalty package of just under £8m 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 of 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. Sarah Harrison, Gambling Commission Chief Executive

Two key social responsibility failures

The investigation found two main failures in regard to the company’s responsibilities. Firstly, over 7,000 customers who had voluntarily self-excluded themselves from accessing the 888 platform were able to access their accounts on the bingo platform, due to a technical failure. This issue persisted over 13 months, with affected users depositing £3.5m into their accounts and continuing to gamble.

Secondly, the provider did not recognize clear signs of problem gambling from one user, which ultimately ‘was so significant, it resulted in criminal behaviour’, with the customer stealing £55k from their employer. The Gambling Commission’s investigation found:

The customer staked over £1.3million, including £55k stolen from their employer. During a 13-month period the customer placed a large number of bets, gambling on average 3-4 hours a day. 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.Gambling Commission Report

The size of the fine relates to the repayment package, with 888 made to compensate the employer from which money was stolen and then deposited at the site, repay the £3.5m made in deposits by the affected customers, and to give £4.25m to a socially responsible cause aimed at investing in measures to tackle problem gambling.

In response to the fine 888 has stated that it ‘accepts the conclusion of the review and is committed to providing players with a responsible as well as enjoyable gaming experience’. You can read the Gambling Commission’s public statement on the regulatory settlement in full.

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