888, one of Britain’s biggest online gambling firms, is to pay a record penalty fine of over £7.8m as a result of its handling of vulnerable customers.
A report from the Gambling Commission said there were “significant flaws” in the firm’s social responsibility processes, pointing out that its self-exclusion procedures were “not robust enough and failed to protect potentially vulnerable customers.”
The regulator cited a technical failure which meant 7,000 customers who had chosen to block themselves from their 888 accounts were still able to gamble.
Sarah Harrison, chief executive at the Gambling Commission said: “Safeguarding consumers is not optional. This penalty package of just under £8m 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.”
888 said it had been working in a cooperative manner with the regulator throughout the review, resulting in the voluntary settlement, adding it was “committed to providing players with a responsible as well as enjoyable gaming experience”.
The penalty fine of £7.8m will include repayment of the £3.5m of deposits made by the self-excluded customers.
A further £4.25m will be paid to a socially responsible cause to invest in measures to tackle gambling-related harm.
The commission also ordered an independent audit of 888’s processes relating to customer protection.
Peter Murray, head of gaming at identity data intelligence firm GBG, said: “In today’s complex and ever-changing online environment, gambling companies need to demonstrate they have the ability to understand their customers intimately.
“It’s unfair to place the responsibility of self-exclusion on players themselves. By the very nature of the condition, those with an addiction will look to find a way around preventative measures. Therefore, technology must be used to monitor every transaction, automatically detecting when player behaviour has changed, indicative of problem-gambling.”