Gambling firm 888 books record £7.8m penalty for failing vulnerable customers

 
Courtney Goldsmith
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The Gambling Commission hit 888 with a record fine (Source: Getty)

Online gambling firm 888 has paid out a record £7.8m penalty for failing to protect vulnerable customers.

The UK Gambling Commission's (UKGC) investigation found "significant flaws" in 888's social responsibility processes, which aim to protect consumers from gambling-related harm.

“Safeguarding consumers is not optional. This penalty package of just under £8m reflects the seriousness of 888’s failings to protect vulnerable customers," said Sarah Harrison, chief executive of UKGC.

"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," Harrison added.

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Technical failure

The commission found due to a technical failure in the firm's systems, more than 7,000 customers who had chosen to self-exclude from their casino, poker or sport platform were still able to access their accounts on its bingo platform.

The issue went undetected for a long period of time, which allowed vulnerable people to deposit more than £3.5m into their accounts and continue to gamble for more than 13 months.

"While 888 did have self-exclusion procedures in place, they were not robust enough and failed to protect potentially vulnerable customers," the commission said.

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£1.3m binge

UKGC said 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 more than £1.3m, including £55,000 stolen from their employer. During a 13-month period they gambled on average 3 to 4 hours per 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," UKGC said.

The penalty includes repayment of the £3.5m of deposits made by the self-excluded customers and compensation of £62,000 to the employer from whom money was stolen.

A further £4.25m will be paid to a socially responsible cause to invest in measures to tackle gambling-related harm.

In a statement, 888 said it has been working cooperatively with the UKGC throughout the review.

"The company accepts the conclusion of the review and is committed to providing players with a responsible as well as enjoyable gaming experience," 888 said.

Shares in the firm rose 5.53 per cent to 267p in morning trading.

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