Online sportsbook and casino Betway has been told to pay a record £11.6 million by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC).
The previous highest-ever penalty package given to a UK operator was £7.8 million, which had to be paid by 888casino in 2017.
Betway will pay a total of £11.6 million consisting of £5.8 million payment in lieu of a financial penalty, which will be directed towards delivering the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms, and will divest a total of £5.8 million, the majority of which to go to victims where it has been found, or could reasonably suspected to be, proceeds of crime.
Failing to protect players
According to the UKGC, its investigation had showed that Betway was guilty of letting £5.8 million of questionable origin flow through the business.
The Commission found Betway to be particularly irresponsible when it came to player protection. One individual reportedly had £8 million’s worth of deposits accepted over a four-year period, losing £4 million in the process. Their account had been designated as a potential risk on 20 occasions.
Meanwhile, there was a separate case in which an unemployed gambler lost £700,000 over three years. That person had deposited £1.6 million. The operator used “open source”, unverified information as evidence they could afford these bets.
Repeat problem gamblers
On another occasion, Betway accepted £494,000 from someone who had 11 different accounts with the operator. This individual had signed up to a gambling exclusion register in the past.
Richard Watson, Executive Director of the UKGC, had the following to say about Betway’s actions.
“The actions of Betway suggest there was little regard for the welfare of its VIP customers or the impact on those around them.”
He continued with the following.
“As part of our ongoing programme of work to make gambling safer we are pushing the industry to make rapid progress on the areas that we consider will have the most significant impact to protect consumers. The treatment and handling of high value customers is a significant piece of that work and operators are in no doubt about the need to tackle the issue at speed.
“We have set tight deadlines for when we expect to see progress and if we do not see the right results then we will have no choice but to take further action. This case highlights again why progress needs to be made.”
Others not happy with the result
Despite the size of Betway’s fine, some people are far from happy. Labour MP Carolyn Harris is one of these.
She launched a scathing attach on both the UKGC and Betway, as was printed in a Guardian article.
“Just how exploitative has a gambling company got to be before the Gambling Commission suspends their licence?” she said.
“Betway’s fine for calculated and deliberate manipulation of VIP customers is paltry in comparison with the damage they will have caused to those caught in the web of VIP inducements.”
Harris also referred to the UK gambling industry as “morally bankrupt”.
The previous largest penalty packages saw 888 pay over £7.8m for failing vulnerable customers, Daub Alderney pay £7.1m fine for anti-money laundering and social responsibility failures, William Hill pay £6.2m penalty package for systemic social responsibility and money laundering failures and Ladbrokes Coral Group pay £5.9m for past failings in anti-money laundering and social responsibility.