BREAKING: 888 must pay £7.8 million for failing to protect players from gambling harm

  • ‘Technical fault’ let 7,000 self-excluded players gamble £3.5 million over 13 months
  • One player was able to wager £1.3 million uncontested, including money gained from criminal activity
  • Commission says that “safeguarding consumers is not optional” in unprecedented fine

One of the biggest gambling firms in Britain has been slapped with an unprecedented £7.8 million penalty package for failing to protect players from gambling-related harm.

888 has been given a hefty fine for failing to protect its players.
888 has been given a hefty fine for failing to protect its players.

888, known for its online casino, poker, sports betting and bingo operations, was handed the fine by watchdog the UK Gambling Commission, in what was described as a record penalty package.

By far the biggest failing was the way 888 handled 7,000 customers who had chosen to self exclude themselves from the firm’s various gambling platforms. Those customers, who had chosen to exclude themselves to prevent issues with problem gambling, found themselves still able to access their 888 accounts through its bingo platform.

The issue went undetected for such a long time that those customers managed to deposit £3.5 million into their accounts, continuing to gamble for 13 months.

More serious failings

One of the UK Gambling Commission’s key aims is to prevent gambling harm, so it is no surprise to see them come down hard on 888. The penalty will also send shockwaves through the industry and many other operators may start to look inwards to make sure their player safety procedures are up to scratch.

On the failing, the Gambling Commission statement said: “While 888 did have self-exclusion procedures in place, they were not robust enough and failed to protect potentially vulnerable customers.”

The second black mark for 888 relates to an individual customer and its lack of recognition of a clear gambling problem which was so serious it led to criminal activity.

The player in question staked a whopping £1.3 million in wagers, £55,000 of which had been stolen from an employer.

The player gambled for 3-4 hours per day, in a spree that lasted 15 months. Despite this huge outlay and continuous gambling from the player, 888 did not intervene sufficiently, causing the Gambling Commission to seriously question its procedures when dealing with at-risk players.

The player’s crimes saw him sent to jail for 16 months for theft and false accounting.

What the Gambling Commission said

“Safeguarding consumers is not optional. This penalty package of just under £8 million 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.”
Sarah Harrison, Chief Executive, Gambling Commission

Paying their dues

The £3.5 million deposited by self-excluded players will be repaid to them as part of the penalty and compensation of £62,000 will be paid to the employer left out of pocket by the problem gambler.

A further £4.25 million fine will be paid to what the Gambling Commission refers to “a socially responsible cause” which tackles gambling-related harm.

£4 million of that fine is for the self-exclusion error, and £250,000 was for the individual player case.

The Commission has also ordered an audit of 888’s internal processes to further reassure itself its procedures for dealing with problem gambling and player safety are robust.

What 888 said in response

888 did not refer to the case in detail this morning, but did release a short statement.

The Company has been working cooperatively with the UKGC throughout its review and has concluded a voluntary regulatory settlement with the UKGC. The Company accepts the Conclusion of the review and is committed to providing players with a responsible as well as enjoyable gaming experience.
888 statement

The problem in detail

888 runs two technological platforms, one which deals with its online casino, poker and sports betting operations, and another which is concerned with bingo.

There are more than 270 websites and brands which players can access, hosted on those two platforms. If a player self excludes from one, they are supposed to be excluded from all, but the Gambling Commission reported they were in fact blocked from only the sport/poker/casino platform and not the bingo one.

888 alerted the Gambling Commission to this error on February 28 this year. The Gambling Commission found that between October 2015 and September 2016, 7,010 self-excluded players were able to deposit £3.5 million.

In this period, using deposits and recycled winnings, they were able to gamble £50.6 million.

A Commission report added: “The Commission is of the view that 888 was frank and cooperative during the licensing review process.

“Following the investigation, we are also of the view that 888 has recognised its failings and has gone to significant lengths to address the concerns raised to prevent these issues happening again.”

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