888 to pay record £7.8 million penalty for social responsibility failings

The Gambling Commission has today announced by way of a Public Statement (that can be downloaded below) that, following the discovery of significant flaws in the social responsibility processes of 888 UK Limited, 888 is to pay a record penalty package of over £7.8million, of which:

  • £3.5million is to be repaid to self-excluded customers who were able to deposit sums amounting to this figure over a period of 13 months,
  • £62,000 is to be paid by way of compensation to an employer from whom money was stolen by a customer and used for gambling with 888, and
  • £4.25million will be paid to a socially responsible cause to invest in measures to tackle gambling-related harm.

In addition, for “future assurance” purposes, the Commission has ordered an independent audit of 888’s processes relating to customer protection.

The Commission’s investigation found that:

  • due to a technical failure in 888’s systems, over 7,000 customers who had chosen to self-exclude from their casino/poker/sport platform were still able to access their accounts on their bingo platform. The issue went undetected for a prolonged period of time, meaning customers were able to deposit £3.5million into their accounts, and then continue to gamble, for over 13 months. While 888 did have self-exclusion procedures in place, they were not robust enough and failed to protect potentially vulnerable customers.
  • 888 also failed to recognise visible signs of problem gambling behaviour displayed by an individual customer, which was so significant that it resulted in criminal activity. 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.

Commenting on the announcement, Sarah Harrison, chief executive at the Gambling Commission has said: “Safeguarding consumers is not optional. This penalty package of just under £8million 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 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.”

This announcement represents the conclusion of what commenced by way of a licence review, in relation to which David Clifton commented in his May 2017 Licensing Expert article for SBC News.

Download article PDF: GC 888 Public Statement August 2017