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The Most Notable Gambling Industry Fines in Recent Years

Perhaps unbeknown to many people, the gambling industry does have somewhat of a murkier side to it, even in the most respected regulated markets. Since the emergence of online gambling a little over two decades ago, there have been a number of changes in regulation as a way of attempting to ensure fairness.

The UK, in particular, is one of those markets that has been the subject to much scrutiny over the years for one reason or another relating to floutings of the law by live online casinos and gambling companies.

Many of these could well just be considered to be misdemeanours - essentially nothing too major when it comes to law-breaking - civil if anything, and, as a result, this has been reflected in the financial punishments that have been handed out.

The United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) was founded in 2007 with the aim to better police the industry and make sure that gambling companies were abiding by the laws within the framework that had been established.

Most often gambling companies are fined as a form of punishment, these penalties have come in varying amounts, depending on the severity of the offence. As a result, it got us thinking about what have the biggest fines in the industry been over the years, so keep reading to learn the reasons for the penalties and the details surrounding them.

Biggest fines in the gambling industry

888 Holdings (2022): £9.4 Million

In 2022, Gibraltar-based company 888 Holdings was hit with a £9.4 million. The multi-million fine followed an investigation by the UKGC, which found activity relating to money laundering and social responsibility.

888’s failures related to money laundering included such things as the implementation of a policy that allowed customers to deposit £40,000 prior to carrying out SOF (Source Of Funds) checks, in addition to accepting verbal assurances from customers regarding their employment status rather than undergoing detailed SOF checks.

Meanwhile, some of their breaches of social responsibility measures included a failure to identify players being at the possible risk of problem gambling, following a deposit of £40,000, while the company allowed a customer to impose a £1,300 monthly limit who they knew to be an NHS (National Health Service) employee, earning £1,400 per month.

The circumstances of the last enforcement action may be different, but both cases involve failing consumers – and this is something that is not acceptable. Today's fine is one of our largest to date, and all should be clear 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.

Consumers in Britain deserve to know that when they gamble, they are participating in a leisure activity where operators play their part in keeping them safe and are carrying out checks to ensure money is crime-free.

Andrew RhodesCEO of UK Gambling Commission

Betway (2023): £11.6 Million

It was found earlier this year that an investigation into the Malta-based, Betway, revealed significant failings surrounding its VIP customers, with the firm ordered to pay a fine of £11.6 million.

One instance detailed a customer who was allowed to deposit £8 million and lose £4 million over a four-year period, while another lost £187,000 in just two days after social responsibility checks were neglected.

The actions of Betway suggest there was little regard for the welfare of its VIP customers or the impact on those around them. As part of our ongoing programme of work to make gambling safer we are pushing the industry to make rapid progress on the areas that we consider will have the most significant impact to protect consumers.

The treatment and handling of high-value customers is a significant piece of that work and operators are in no doubt about the need to tackle the issue at speed. We have set tight deadlines for when we expect to see progress, and if we do not see the right results, then we will have no choice but to take further action. This case highlights again why progress needs to be made.

Andrew WatsonExecutive Director of UK Gambling Commission

Caesars Entertainment (2020): £13 Million

Across the Atlantic, it was US gambling company Caesars Entertainment, which was slapped with a fine of £13 million ($18 million) in 2020 after its UK arm of the business failed to adhere to money laundering regulations.

As a result, the UKGC revealed that it had encountered "serious systematic failures" across its 11 land-based casinos in the United Kingdom. One of the instances included allowing a self-employed nanny (au pair), who admitted she had spent her savings and was borrowing from family, to gamble and lose £18,000 in a year.

Meanwhile, another instance that lead to the massive financial penalty, detailed a customer who had lost £323,000 in a year and continued gambling, although they had spent over five hours in casinos on 30 individual occasions.

The failings in this case are extremely serious. A culture of putting customer safety at the heart of business decisions should be set from the very top of every company, and Caesars failed to do this. We will now continue to investigate the individual licence holders involved with the decisions taken in this case.

We are clear about our expectations of operators – whatever type of gambling they offer they must know their customers. They must interact with them and check what they can afford to gamble with – stepping in when they see signs of harm. Consumer safety is non-negotiable.

Neil McArthurCEO (at the time) UK Gambling Commission

Entain (2022): £17 Million

One of the biggest gambling industry fines (the biggest until 2023), was issued to Entain (previously HVC Holdings) in 2022 which was ordered to pay £17 million. It involved breaches at several of its brands that related to a number of regulatory failings according to an investigation by the UKGC.

Our investigation revealed serious failures that have resulted in the largest enforcement outcome to date. There were completely unacceptable anti-money laundering and safer gambling failures. Operators are reminded they must never place commercial considerations over compliance.

This is the second time this operator has fallen foul of rules in place to make gambling safer and crime-free. They should be aware that we will be monitoring them very carefully, and further serious breaches will make the removal of their licence to operate a very real possibility. We expect better, and consumers deserve better.

Andrew RhodesCEO UK Gambling Commission

Entain is arguably the biggest gambling conglomerate in the world, with in excess of 25 brands under its umbrella, which include Ladbrokes, Coral, Bwin and Party Poker. The company's response to being issued such a fine was that it would appoint a board sponsor whose role it would be to monitor the implementation of new changes resulting from the Gambling Commission's review of compliance measures.

An official statement by the company illustrated its ambition to be as compliant as possible, highlighting its planned investment in technology: "In 2021, Entain launched its Advanced Responsibility and Care (ARC) programme which, using revolutionary AI technology, operates in real-time and is individually tailored for each customer.

The initial trials of ARC in the UK have shown a risk assessment accuracy of over 80 per cent, a 120 per cent uplift in the use of safer gambling tools by those most at risk, and a 30% overall reduction in customers, increasing their risk levels.

Furthermore, in May of this year, Entain was awarded the Advanced Safer Gambling Standard by GamCare, having evidenced the highest standards of player protection and social responsibility for its online and land-based gambling businesses in Great Britain."

William Hill (2023): £19.2 Million

In 2023, UKGC handed out its biggest fine so far to gambling company William Hill after it was ordered to pay £19.2 million ($23.7 million).

It was revealed by the UKGC that the company, which is owned by conglomerate 888 Holdings, were so "widespread and alarming" that there was a suggestion the regulator may suspend the firm's license. The fines are related mainly to money laundering, a serious failure to comply with protection measures for customers and major issues concerning safer gambling.

UKGC’s multi-million fine to William Hill includes a breakdown of numerous instances related to safer gambling and money laundering.

One customer was allowed to open an account and spend £23,000 in 20 minutes. Another was related to social responsibility. Meanwhile, it was revealed that there was a failure to review any checks when another customer was able to spend £18,000 within 24 hours of opening an account.

There was a separate incident that allowed a customer to spend £32,500 in two days, having neglected to conduct any checks.

We found serious non-compliance issues around safer gambling measures and also anti-money laundering control failings across the company.When we launched this investigation the failings we uncovered were so widespread and alarming serious consideration was given to licence suspension.

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.

Andrew RhodesCEO UK Gambling Commission
UKGC's multi-million fine to William Hill

Will Gambling Operators Take Heed?

It is, perhaps, quite astonishing that gambling operators, even after two decades, are still flouting regulations, while it is even more concerning that customers are being allowed to deposit (and then gamble) vast sums without any checks being made.

What appears to be of most concern, is that when it comes to SOF checks, very little seems to be implemented that can validate this, though Entain's investment into AI could well be a catalyst when it comes to making a difference and other operators will likely follow suit.

Understandably, a gambling operator's CEO's responsibility is to their shareholders and year-on-year (YoY) growth, though, in today's world, it is still quite perplexing to see that customers are allowed to deposit unchallenged.

The next few years will certainly be interesting, especially with the UKGC seemingly set to impose stricter measures on gambling operators following a recent review.

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