888 finds out how serious UK regulators are about safe online gambling practices.
After two decades, the online gambling industry has evolved tremendously. It started as a slap-shod industry with little or no regulation. Now, it’s a strictly regulated form of interactive entertainment in many jurisdictions. The United Kingdom has the most comprehensive set of rules for iGaming operators. One of the most important revolves around consumer protections.
The UK Gambling Commission requires all licensed operators to adhere to rigorous standards. Among them, they must monitor each and every player’s activity to identify at-risk behavior. They must also provide self-exclusion capabilities, along with clear and readily accessible support services for vulnerable gamblers.
888, operator of one of the region’s largest and most recognized online gambling businesses, failed to comply with those stringent measures. The UKGC began investigating the company back in May, following complaints from members. Last week, regulators ruled against 888, issuing a judgment of more than £7.8 million in penalties.
888 Fails Safe Online Gambling Test
A foremost competitor in the global iGaming community, 888 provides omni-channel services that include online casino, poker, bingo, and sports betting. Its player base spans far beyond the UK, including several other European countries, Australia, Canada, the US, and others.
A UKGC report issued last Thursday identified multiple compliance issues. As such, 888 will have to “pay a record penalty package of over £7.8million as a result of serious failings in its handling of vulnerable customers.
“The action follows the discovery of significant flaws in 888 UK Limited’s (888) social responsibility processes, which aim to protect consumers from gambling-related harm,” reads the report.
Failure to Enforce Self-Exclusion
The most shocking claim alludes to 888’s failure to enforce mandatory self-exclusion policies. Players who choose to exclude themselves from online gambling services should not be able to access online casino, poker, bingo or sports betting accounts. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case at 888.
“Due to a technical failure in 888’s systems”, the UKGC found that more than 7,000 customers who had self-excluded themselves from 888’s online casino, poker and/or sportsbook, were still able to access the 888 bingo site. This went on for a staggering 13 months, and resulted in over £3.5 million in deposits by self-excluded players.
Lack of Responsibility Leads to Crime
The report also indicated that 888 failed to recognize a gross case of problem gambling behavior. The UKGC deems it, “so significant that it resulted in criminal activity”.
In this case, a single individual was allowed to wager more than £1.3 million with no intervention. That included £55,000 he’d stolen from his employer to fund his gambling habit.
This incident also took place over the course of 13 months, involving a multitude of large-figure wagers. The player was active on 888’s gambling sites an average of 3-4 hours per day, with no concerned interaction or communication from 888 regarding the excessive behavior.
Commitment To Safe Internet Gambling Environment
UKGC Chief Executive Sarah Harrison said the record penalty is a stiff lesson for 888 and any other operators that fail to comply with the regulator’s safe internet gambling protocols.
“Safeguarding consumers is not optional,” says Harrison. “This penalty package of just under £8million reflects the seriousness of 888’s failings to protect vulnerable customers.”
888 responded to the ruling, acknowledging its “historic failings” and vowing to fix all problems post haste. The company also noted that £62k of the fine is being paid to the employer who was robbed by a self-excluded online gambler. It’s enough to cover that employers losses and legal fees.