The Gambling Commission has imposed a fine of £9.4 million on the online gambling business 888 UK Limited, which operates 78 websites including 888.com.
What went wrong at 888?
The Commission carried out an investigation into 888 UK, which revealed social responsibility and money laundering failings.
The Gambling Commission found the following social responsibility failures:
- not effectively identifying players at risk of harm because their policies determined financial checks should be carried out after a customer had deposited £40,000
- not carrying out a customer interaction with a customer who lost £37,000 in a six week period during the Covid-19 pandemic
- not taking into account the Commission’s formal guidance on customer interaction
- giving a customer they knew was an NHS worker earning £1,400 a month a monthly deposit cap of £1,300
- most of the interactions conducted predominately consisted of an email just detailing the responsible gambling tools and did not require a customer response
- during a Commission assessment there was no evidence of the operator proactively placing restrictions on accounts where social responsibility concerns were raised, and
- not ensuring that if a customer has multiple accounts those accounts are managed for customer interaction holistically and financial limits can be implemented across all accounts. In one example, a customer had one of his 11 accounts restricted because of source of funds (SOF) concerns, but he was allowed to open three more accounts and continue gambling.
Money laundering failures included:
- implementing a policy where customers were allowed to deposit £40,000 before carrying out SOF checks
- accepting verbal assurances from customers as to employment income and being reliant on open-source information to validate SOF
- not setting out which documents should be requested as part of SOF checks
- allowing one customer to spend £65,835 in five months without SOF checks being carried out, and
- not effectively implementing its own policies which stated that customers have ten days to present SOF documentation before their account was restricted. In one case a customer’s SOF were not requested until three weeks after the 10 day trigger and they lost £15,000 during that period.
The Commission pointed out that this is the second time 888 UK Limited has faced enforcement action – in 2017 they paid a £7.8m penalty package for failing vulnerable customers.
The Gambling Commission decided to:
- impose a warning under section 117 (1) (a) of the Gambling Act 2005 (the Act) in respect of the breaches identified
- attach an additional condition to the Licensee’s operating licence under section 117(1)(b) of the Act requiring the Licensee to conduct a third-party audit within 12 months of the conclusion of the review, to examine whether the Licensee is effectively implementing its anti-money laundering and social responsibility policies, procedures and controls
- impose a financial penalty of £9,409,756.48 under section 121 of the Act.
This case is the most recent illustration of an increasingly active Gambling Commission taking robust enforcement action against a gambling operator.