UK Gambling Commission Fines 888 a Record £7.8 Million

Friday, September 1st, 2017 | Written by April Bergman

888 Holdings was hit with a record £7.8 million penalty by the UK Gambling Commission this week, due to an alleged failure to uphold responsible gaming practices on their websites.

The UK Gambling Commission highlighted “significant flaws” in 888’s social responsibility processes. An oversight led to over 7,000 customers who chose to register for the self-exclusion list to continue to gamble through their 888 accounts.

One gambler wagered £1.3 million over a 13-month period before the site identified him as a problem gambler. In a press release, 888 said it had been cooperating with the Gambling Commission, which led to the voluntary settlement. The statement added that 888 was “committed to providing players with a responsible as well as enjoyable gaming experience”.

£3.5 Million Returned to Players

Sarah Harrison, the head of the UK Gambling Commission, said the UKGC wanted to assure that “lessons are learnt” by 888. The fine has a practical purpose, though. £3.5 million of the fine will go to repay customers who self-excluded themselves, but were allowed to continue gambling.

Harrison added, “Our requirements are that every company must provide the facility for every customer to be able to bar themselves from gambling. These 7,000 looked to do that. But 888 didn’t deliver it as effectively as they should have done.”

What Is a Self-Exclusion List?

The law which created the self-exclusion list recognizes that problem gamblers cannot control themselves once they begin to gamble and an adrenaline rush hits them. The idea of the list is to bar them in their quieter, more contemplative moments. Later, when the urge to gamble compulsively hits them, their self-ban assures they can do themselves no harm.

Part of the trouble was that the self-banned players were partially (or even mostly) excluded. They were banned from the online casinos, poker room, and sportsbook. The glitch allowed them to gamble on 888’s online bingo platform.

Gambling Losses of £1.3 Million

The case involving £1.3 million was a key example that the UK Gambling Commission used. The customer wagered 3 to 4 hours a day over a 13-month period. They even stole £55,000 from their employer to gamble. Despite a large and continual amount of gaming activity, 888’s staff never noticed or engaged with the gambler.

The Gambling Commission’s report on that one particular case stated “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.”

In that case, £62,000 of the fine money will be returned to the gambler’s employer. The remaining £4.2 million of the 888 fine is designed to go to socially responsible causes which help problem gamblers, as well as raise awareness about responsible gaming.

Sarah Harrison on UK Problem Gamblers

Sarah Harrison said that problem gambling is a major issue in the United Kingdom. Raising awareness is important, but so is policing companies which do not adhere to the UK gaming regulations. Harrison said in a statement, “There are around two million people now in Britain who either are problem gamblers or are at risk of problem gambling.”

“Companies are beginning to put different practices in place to identify people right up front, but more needs to be done. We need to go further and we need to go faster.”

888 Leaves Australian Gaming Market

This has not been a good several months for 888, compared to its long years of success. In August 2017, 888 announced it would be leaving the Australian gambling market. The decision came after the Australian Senate approved the Interactive Gambling Amendment 2016, which bans international online gambling operators from accepting real money play from Australian residents. Because Australia’s officials have a deal in place with regulators in the UK and Canada to punish companies which defy IGA 2016, the new law had teeth that the IGA 2001 never did.

While the Australian gambling market is smaller than many European countries’ gambling demographic, Aussie punters are known to be dedicated gamblers. No other nationality in the world spends more per capita on gambling each year than Australians. In fact, about 80% of adult Aussies make some form of bet each year — a percentage much larger than residents of most countries. Thus, 888 leaving Australia is a big blow.

In comparison, the fine by the UK Gambling Commission is substantial, but still a one-time hit on the company’s profits.