Sky Gaming and Betting have been fined £1.2 million for a major regulatory breach – becoming the third major operator to be fined a seven-figure sum in barely a fortnight.
The firm behind brands such as Sky Casino, Sky Vegas and Sky Bingo admitted to accidentally sending free spins promotional material – which included the line ‘we love the unexpected – to players that had either self-excluded or opted out of receiving marketing messages.
Following an investigation by the UK Gambling Commission, it was confirmed that Sky Gaming had inadvertently sent a ‘Bet £5, Get 100 free spins’ advert to more than 40,000 players that had already self-excluded.
Some 249,000 customers also received the email despite opting out of marketing in a mistake that clearly breaches the firm’s licence conditions.
The regulator was left with no choice but to dish out a hefty fine to the company, and settled on the figure of £1.17 million – that will be paid to a number of responsible gambling charities.
The Commission’s chief executive, Andrew Rhodes, reflected on the operator’s ‘costly errors’.
“Self-excluded customers are likely to be suffering gambling harm, and should absolutely not be sent direct marketing that could tempt them back into gambling,” he said.
“We would advise all operators to learn from Sky Betting and Gaming’s costly errors, and ensure their systems are robust enough to always prevent the self-excluded, and those who have clearly rejected marketing, from receiving promotional material.”
Rhodes admitted that the fine would have been ‘a lot higher’ had Sky Gaming failed to notice their mistake and let the self-excluded players claim the promotion or reactivate their accounts.
Paying the Price
Conor Grant, the chief executive of parent company Flutter, admitted his firm ‘did not do enough’ to protect vulnerable players. He said:
“We’ve conducted a thorough investigation into what went wrong, the results of which were provided to regulators, and have put in place measures to ensure that this cannot happen again.
“As soon as the error was identified, we ceased communications until the fault could be rectified, notified regulators and apologised to the affected customers.
“We accept the Gambling Commission’s findings, and once again apologise to those customers who we let down.”
It brings the total amount of fines levied by the Commission to £12 million in little over two weeks. The 888 Holdings company, which owns the 888casino and 888poker brands, was sanctioned a whopping £9.4 million earlier in March for a catalogue of social responsibility and anti-money laundering (AML) breaches.
And just a week prior to that, BV Gaming Ltd – the proprietor of BetVictor, Parimatch and Heart Bingo – was fined £2 million after the regulator found they too had breached social responsibility and AML guidelines, and failed to meet the ‘fairness’ requirement in a promotion’s terms and conditions.
At a time when operators across the UK are nervously awaiting the outcome of the government’s Gambling Act review, which could see more stringent regulation introduced, these fines handed out to some of the largest firms operating in the domestic market could not have come at a worse time.