William Hill handed record-breaking fine

Jake Graves 6 months ago
William Hill handed record-breaking fine

888 owned betting shop operator, William Hill, has been handed the largest penalty in UK gambling history. £19.2 million (US$23.7 million) was the collective price placed on 3 of the William Hill group’s gambling operations. This was for what was described as “widespread and alarming” failures regarding the business’ social responsibility and anti-money laundering (AML) in their business practices.

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) were staggered at the sheer extent of the misconduct that they discovered, that the fine issued was a lighter alternative from the action that was initially considered, which was to be a suspension of the group’s gambling license.

William Hill’s offences

Several instances were uncovered by the UKGC of grossly unscrupulous conduct, such as allowing one customer to open a new account and spend £23,000 in 20 minutes or another spending £32,500 over a 48 hour period without incurring any checks or having to navigate any preventative measures.

The failures became even more obscene, with customers being allowed to spend and lose figures into the tens of thousands of pounds, without any sort of checks being conducted. Figures that were so ridiculously uncontrolled that they constituted non-compliance in relation to anti-money laundering (AML) legislation.

Issues related to incredibly poor due diligence across the business were also a cause for concern. With controls proving ineffective, allowing 331 customers to subsequently gamble with WHG (International) after having self-excluded with Mr Green. Both businesses being operated by William Hill, showing a lack of effort to enforce their own cross platform controls.

An issue plaguing the industry

These regulatory penalties come just less than a week after Kindred Group 2 operations, 32 Red Limited and Platinum Gaming Limited, were also hit with a fine worth £7.1m. This was for almost identical charges, spending and losing vast sums of money, ineffective and unenforced self-exclusion measures and a lack of interaction with customers in any attempt to protect problem gamblers.

In a statement given by William Hill they reflect the industry-wide sentiment to work collaboratively with regulators to improve the shortcomings that have been brought to light.

“The entire group shares the Gambling Commission’s commitment to improve compliance standards across the industry and we will continue to work collaboratively with the regulator and other stakeholders to achieve this.”

New legislation in the works

William Hill received the latest fine from the UKGC.
The UKGC have come under fire from various gambling operators.

These, the latest in many financial penalisations, come in lieu of the wider operation the British government is conducting in an attempt to reform and re-establish the effectiveness of gambling regulation in Britain. So that it may be both safe, compliant and socially responsible whilst remaining as profitable as ever.

In collecting information to be featured in a contemporary, fully comprehensive gambling white paper to springboard the new legislation, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee interacted with major operators. Who levelled criticism at the UKGC regarding their lack of engagement with operators. There is widespread discontent with the lack of consultation and feedback from the regulator to the operators which has disappointed them when being issued fines.

The validity of this claim can be seen in the statement afforded by William Hill’s parent company 888:

“After William Hill was acquired, the company quickly addressed the identified issues with the implementation of a rigorous action plan”

William Hill’s non-US based operations were acquired by 888 only last year for the sum of £1.95 billion, which in this light paints a picture of confusion and ineffective regulation. This has led to the fines being issued a deserved but incongruent penalty. The legislation that is currently being preliminarily designed must address these issues in a way that will reshape and mould the industry as opposed to handing out numerous fines which are rapidly becoming a simple cost of doing business. This is an issue that must be solved if the gambling industry in the UK is to improve in its compliance without being significantly set back in the services that can be rendered and the success that can be garnered.

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