One of Britain’s largest gambling companies, 888, was fined a record-breaking £7.8 million earlier this year due to serious failings in its treatment of vulnerable customers. This decision was made after an investigation by the UK’s gambling watchdog uncovered significant flaws in 888 UK Limited’s social responsibility processes.
The UK Gambling Commission first began investigating 888’s practices in May 2017 and announced the £7.8 million fine in August. According to a statement by the regulatory body, the penalty was a result of two major failings in 888’s handling of vulnerable customers.
The first issue which raised concern during the enquiry was the fact that 7,000 customers who had chosen to ‘self-exclude’ - or block themselves from accessing the site - were banned from playing casino, poker and sports betting but still able to access 888’s online bingo platform. A total of £3.5 million was spent on bingo by self-excluded players over a period of 13 months.
In addition to this, 888 was found to have failed to spot red flags with problem customers. In the case of one customer, the problem was so severe that it resulted in criminal activity. This individual staked over £1.3 million over a 13-month period, £55,000 of which was stolen from their employer - with no intervention or interaction from 888. The UKGC said of this case: “the lack of interaction with the customer, given the frequency, duration and sums of money involved in gambling, raised serious concerns about 888’s safeguarding of customers at risk of gambling harm.”
These discoveries lead to the £7.8 million fine which includes £3.5 million repaid to those who self-excluded but were still able to access the bingo platform, £62,000 for the employer who had money stolen from them and a further £4.25 million paid to a socially responsible cause to “invest in measures to tackle gambling-related harm”.
The UKGC’s chief executive, Sarah Harrison, has stated that the penalty package of just under £8 million reflects the seriousness of 888’s failings to protect vulnerable customers. In her statement she said:
“safeguarding consumers is not optional…the 888 sanction will ensure that 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 commission has also ordered an independent audit of 888’s customer protection practices going forward.
888 has accepted the conclusion of the investigation. A spokesperson for the company has said that they are working co-operatively with the UKGC and, after the conclusion of the review, is committed to providing players with a responsible as well as enjoyable gaming experience.