The UK Gambling Commission has fined Tabcorp UK Limited £84,000 for its failure to protect problem gamblers on its United Kingdom-based gaming platform. Tabcorp UK is the British division of the Australian gambling giant, Tabcorp.
The United Kingdom’s gaming regulator claims that Tabcorp UK allowed more than 100 self-excluded gamblers to open duplicate accounts and continue gambling. The UK Gambling Commission advised all operators to read the Tabcorp UK public statement for the lessons to be learned.
Self-exclusion laws allow a compulsive gambler to sign up for the self-exclusion list. If a gambler self-bans themselves, then their name goes in a database that acts as a black list. If the player later tries to gamble, the casino operator is suppoosed to stop them from doing so.
How Self-Exclusion Works
The idea is that problem gamblers have an addiction or compulsion which takes over them at certain times. In their quieter and more reflective moments, they realize they are addicted and self-exclude themselves from dangerous gambling. Later, when adrenaline, boredom, or other compulsive triggers compel them to gamble, they are excluded from doing so.
For the system to work, gambling operators have to buy into the system. During the administration of the last two UK Gambling Commission directors, the government regulator has begun to lose patience with operators who do not uphold their public responsibility. It appears in the Tabcorp UK case, the damage was relatively little, because the £84k fine pales in comparison to the record £7 million+ fine levied against other offenders.
Richard Watson on Vulnerable Customers
Richard Watson, programme director for the UK Gambling Commission, is not taking Tabcorp’s offense lightly. Watson said in a public statement, “Vulnerable customers were able to gamble with Tabcorp UK, despite choosing to self-exclude. This is not acceptable. Gambling firms must ensure the systems they have in place are protecting their customers effectively.”
The gaming official added that he was displeased with some of the proposition wagers Tabcorp UK had offered to British bettors previously. Richard Watson added, “Novelty betting markets, such as the market Tabcorp UK offered on last year’s FA Cup tie between Sutton United v Arsenal, may seem like a bit of fun but the consequences were serious — with the potential to encourage someone to commit a criminal act or breach a sports governing bodies’ rules.”
UK readers might believe it or not, but Tabcorp comes from a community in which gambling is much more rampant: Australia. Research shows that Australian spend more per capita each year on gambling than any other nationality. Australians spend a bit over $1,000 a year on gambling, meaning they lose at a higher rate.
Tabcorp is one of the biggest Australian gaming operators, with a stake in totalisator pools, on-course betting at racecourses, online bookmaking operators, electronic gaming machines, EGM clubs and hotels, and keno vendors. Tabcorp has millions of customers and supports thousands of gaming outlets across Australia. In addition, Tabcorp owns its own media network.
In November 2017, Australian regulators approved an $11 billion merger between Tabcorp and Tatts, another huge Australian gaming operator. Tabcorp also owns Star Entertainment (formerly Echo Entertainment), which owns land casinos like the Star Sydney.
Tabcorp in Australia
Along with its huge success, Tabcorp has a darker side. In March 2017, Tabcorp was fined a record A$45 million by Australian government overseers. The company was accused of breaching the country’s money laundering laws on 108 occasions — that is, allowing high roller money launders to circumvent Australian laws.
The company also is a powerful lobbyist in Australia, where gaming groups often run state monopolies or duopolies. To squelch competition, Aussie gaming operators convinced the national parliament to sign into law the Interactive Gaming Amendment 2016. When the Australian Senate passed the bill in August 2017, it drove out all online poker sites like PokerStars and 888 Casino.
The companies hoped such a move would bring them more business, but the unlicensed offshore online poker sites took the place of the more established Internet poker sites. Now Tabcorp and other Australian gaming operators are complaining about a potential 15% Point-of-Consumption Tax, which they say is unfair, because the unlicensed offshore operators can undercut their prices. Australian politicians who did their bidding on the IGA 2016 law do not want to hear the complaints.
Tabcorp UK’s Shortcuts
Tabcorp UK operates in a much different regulatory environment. In the United Kingdom, gambling is embraced. It is legalized, licensed, regulated, and taxed. That means UK operators face huge amounts of competition, but also a complex regulatory framework. Facing competition it might not face in Australia, Tabcorp UK might be tempted to find shortcuts, but UK regulators will punish them if those shortcuts involve allowing problem gamblers to break their self-exclusion protocols.