888 has been ordered to pay a record penalty package of over £7.8million as a result of serious failings in its handling of vulnerable customers.
The punishment includes a repayment of £3.5m to customers who, because of a technical fault, were allowed to continue gambling despite self-exclusion.
"This penalty reflects the seriousness of 888’s failings to protect vulnerable customers"
The company, whose brands include casino, sportsbook and poker, must also pay compensation to a company that was the victim of theft after a problem gambler stole thousands to fund his or her betting.
888, one of Britain’s biggest online gambling firms, has been penalised by the Gambling Commission (UKGC), which found "significant flaws in the company's social responsibility processes, which aim to protect consumers from gambling-related harm".
The investigation found:
- 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.
Sarah Harrison, chief executive at the Gambling Commission 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.”
The penalty package will see 888 pay £7.8million, which includes repayment of the £3.5million of deposits made by the self-excluded customers and compensation of £62k to the employer from whom money was stolen.
A further £4.25million will be paid to a socially responsible cause to invest in measures to tackle gambling-related harm. In addition, for future assurance, the Commission has ordered an independent audit of 888’s processes relating to customer protection.
In a statement, 888 said: "The company has been working cooperatively with the UKGC throughout its review and has concluded a voluntary regulatory settlement with the UKGC.
"The company accepts the conclusion of the review and is committed to providing players with a responsible as well as enjoyable gaming experience."