The holding company behind the 888 brands has been hit with a mammoth £9.4 million by the UK Gambling Commission – taking their total to more than £17 million since just 2017.
It’s one of the largest individual fines ever handed out by the regulator, and comes after 888 – whose brands include 888casino, 888poker, Wink Bingo and more – were adjudged to have committed a series of social responsibility and money laundering breaches.
The firm has also been hit with an official warning from the Commission as to their future conduct, and will be required to undergo ‘extensive independent auditing’ to ensure their standards are brought up to scratch.
Just a flavour of 888’s failings included failing to identify a player at risk of harm because they had not yet reached the £40,000 threshold for intervention, a failure to interact with a player that lost £37,000 in just six weeks and allowing one NHS worker, who they knew earned £1,400 per month, to have a deposit limit of up to £1,300.
The Commission also found ‘no evidence’ that 888 proactively restricted accounts of players at risk of harm, and that a player who had one of his eleven accounts restricted was able to open three new accounts without the limits previously placed upon him.
The firm, which operates more than 75 gambling brands around the world, also allowed one customer to deposit more than £60,000 in five months without carrying out any source-of-funds checks.
The chief executive of the Gambling Commission, Andrew Rhodes, revealed that the regulator may even consider withdrawing 888’s UK licence – ‘consider the suitability of the operator’ were the rather more diplomatic words he used.
“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.
“The circumstances of the last enforcement action may be different, but both cases involve failing consumers – and this is something that is not acceptable.”
History Repeating Itself
All of which means that the 888 group is now the most sanctioned gambling brand in the UK, given that they were fined a not-inconsiderable £7.8 million back in 2017.
That came after the Commission found that the firm had failed to protect its most vulnerable customers, with ‘significant flaws’ found in its social responsibility defences.
It came after an investigation found that a staggering 7,000 players were able to still gamble even after imposing self-exclusion and time-out measures on their own accounts – they deposited more than £3.5 million between them thereafter, which was latterly repaid in full by the company.
Another player wagered in excess of £1.3 million – including £55,000 stolen from their employer – with 888’s database only flagging him up as at risk after some 13 months of heavy betting.
In their findings, the Commission found that a ‘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.’
In that instance, 888 paid £4.25 million to charitable causes dedicated to tackling gambling-related harm, but how long will it be before the money alone isn’t enough and permanent action is taken against them?