Gala Interactive handed £2.3 million penalty package for letting problem gamblers wager away £1.3 million in stolen money

  • Gala Interactive ordered to pay £2.3 million penalty package
  • Company allowed two customers to bet with stolen money on Gala Bingo site
  • Players demonstrated signs of problem gambling
  • Gala Interactive part of Ladbrokes Coral group, which accepted findings and reiterated commitment to responsible gambling

A UK betting company has been handed a multimillion pound penalty after letting two high rolling players gamble away stolen money.

Sarah Harrison, Chief Executive of the Gambling Commission, said that serious failings were demonstrated by Gala Interactive in its handling of problem gamblers using stolen money.
Sarah Harrison, Chief Executive of the Gambling Commission, said that serious failings were demonstrated by Gala Interactive in its handling of problem gamblers using stolen money.

Gala Interactive, owned by bookmaker giant Ladbrokes Coral, has been slapped with a £2.3 million ($3 million) penalty package from the regulator the UK Gambling Commission for breaches in regulations designed to protect customers.

The ruling by the Commission follows an investigation into Gala’s operating practices launched after two Gala players gambled £1.3 million in stolen money.

They were playing games on the Gala Bingo site.

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Neither customer has been named, but according to the Commission, Customer A lost £837,545 ($1.1 million) playing Gala’s online games over a period of 14 months, and Customer B lost £432,765 ($567,000).

Customer A has since been jailed for four years for stealing from their employer, while Customer B has been sentenced to four-and-a-half years for acquiring, using or possessing stolen property.

The investigation found that Gala had failed to intervene or contact the two customers, despite the fact that they were clearly displaying problem gambling behaviours. The Commission also found that Gala did not have policies and procedures in place that would enable staff to intervene and prevent problem gambling.

Aggravating factor

The cases of the two customers were not the first examples of Gala’s failure to identify and handle problem gambling.

According to the Commission, a previous case involving Gala had identified the same problem, and following that case, the company had pledged to take steps to address the issue.

Those assurances were made at the same time that Customer A and Customer B were gambling online with Gala. The company’s failure to update practices after the earlier case was said by the Commission to be an aggravating factor here.

Speaking about the penalty package, the Commission’s Chief Executive, Sarah Harrison reiterated that gambling operators had a duty to attempt to prevent harmful behaviour.

“It is the responsibility of all operators – particularly key decision makers in those companies – to ensure they are protecting their customers and step in when there is behaviour that might indicate problem gambling. This did not happen in this case and the £2.3m penalty package should serve as a warning to other operators.”
Sarah Harrison, UK Gambling Commission

The £2.3 million package includes a £1.3 million payment to the victims of Customer A and Customer B and £1 million to fund problem gambling research. Gala also volunteered to give a further £200,000 to gambling research.

What Ladbrokes Coral said

Ladbrokes Coral showed contrition in response, taking no issue with the findings and stating that its procedures had ‘fallen short’ of standards and procedures expected.

It said that the failings were at a time before the Ladbrokes and Gala Coral merger.

Chief Executive of Ladbrokes Coral, Jim Mullen said: “In the two cases reviewed with the Commission, it was clear that within our operations, we had not met our own standards or those demanded by the Commission. While we will always be exposed to risk of people failing to follow procedures, we accept that, in this case, the failings were evidence of a lack of priority being given to changes in approach identified in earlier engagements.

“The Ladbrokes Coral business has moved on since these cases occurred and the mind-set of the Board and the management is that there can be no short cuts on delivering our social responsibility and anti-money laundering obligations.

“We talk genuinely of putting responsible gambling at the heart of our business, and cases like this rightly demonstrate that words alone do not guarantee success.

“With a business of this size and scale we will always be at risk of inadvertently failing to follow the right procedures. That is why we must continue to invest in the technology, people and research and education to help achieve the highest standards of social responsibility.”

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