Watchdog whacks Sky Vegas with £1.2m fine after it offered free casino spins to recovering addicts
Sky Vegas has been hit with a £1.2m fine by gambling watchdog after it sent free casino “spins” to recovering addicts.
It comes as the UK government gears up to publish a white paper, which looks at cleaning up the gambling sector sector, including a crackdown on advertising and marketing.
The fine relates to Sky Vegas, which is owned by gambling giant Flutter Entertainment, sending a promotional offer to 41,395 customers who had voluntarily self-excluded from gambling in an effort to stop.
One email, sent coincidentally during the industry’s annual Safer Gambling Week, carried the subject line: “Here at Sky Vegas, we love the unexpected. That’s right. Simply opt in, spend £5 and claim your 100 free spins. The best part? Whatever you win is yours to keep – that’s the fun in fair!”
The message also featured graphics of slot machines, as well as featured slogans such as: “Entertainment like no other”.
Over 200,000 people signed up with the industry-wide self-exclusion scheme, Gamstop, after a 25 per cent surge during the pandemic.
Under the conditions of holding a licence of offering gambling products, operators like Sky Vegas must remove self-excluded people from any marketing communications.
Gambling Commission chief Andrew Rhodes explained: “Self-excluded customers are likely to be suffering gambling harm and should absolutely not be sent direct marketing that could tempt them back into gambling.
“We would advise all operators to learn from Sky Betting & Gaming’s costly errors and ensure their systems are robust enough to always prevent the self-excluded, and those who have clearly rejected marketing, from receiving promotional material.
“This latest fine would have been a lot higher had Sky Betting & Gaming allowed any of the self-excluded customers to actually gamble, failed to cooperate, and not taken decisive action aimed at preventing a repeat.”
However, this is not the first time that Sky Betting and Gaming has been in hot water.
In 2018, it was fined £1m for the transgressions, including sending promotional material to 50,000 customers.
Meanwhile, rival 888 Casino was fined £9.4m last week for failing to protect customers against making huge losses during the pandemic betting boom.
Conor Grant, the chief executive of Flutter UK and Ireland, said that the company took its responsibility to protect customers “extremely seriously” but on this occasion did not do enough”.
He added: “As soon as the error was identified, we ceased communications until the fault could be rectified, notified regulators and apologised to the affected customers. We also conducted a thorough investigation into what went wrong, the results of which were provided to regulators, and have put in place measures to ensure that this cannot happen again.”
“We accept the Gambling Commission’s findings and once again apologise to those customers who we let down.”