Regulator finds repeated examples of customers allowed to gamble significant sums in short time frames, ‘way beyond their personal affordability’
UK gambling firms paid a record £19.6m in penalties last year for failing to protect problem gamblers and stop money laundering.
More than a third of the total was made up by one £7.1m fine for online casino operator Daub Alderney, which runs a number of sites including Lucky Pants Bingo and Kitty Bingo. Paddy Power Betfair, which has been renamed Flutter Entertainment, received a £2.2m fine.
The Gambling Commission said it had found repeated examples of customers being allowed to gamble significant sums of money in short time frames, “way beyond their personal affordability and without any intervention from the operator”.
The commission’s figures show that this system is frequently ineffective. Gambling operators recorded 1.6 million incidents where people had signed up to exclude themselves and 135,700 times when those people had been found to have been allowed to gamble anyway.
The commission’s enforcement report, published on Thursday, says more than 160 investigations into gambling firms’ conduct were carried out in 2018-19, resulting in a variety of sanctions.
It notes signs of progress and “pockets of developing good practice” but says much more needs to be done to ensure that gambling firms are committed to ensuring the welfare of their customers.
The Gambling Commission’s chief executive Neil McArthur said: “I want gambling consumers in Britain to be able to enjoy the fairest and safest gambling in the world and I want gambling operators to work with us to put customer enjoyment and safety at the top of their corporate agenda.
“As the report shows, we will be tough when we find operators bending the rules or failing to meet our expectations,” he said, adding that more preventative measures would also be taken to lessen the need for fines.
“Addicts are collateral damage for these companies; a point on the balance sheet. This is not a harm prevention report, its a smokescreen. There needs to be a quicker route to revoking licences where harm has been caused.”
He said the Gambling Commission was “not fit for purpose”.
“What is it doing to make regulations stronger, to push for extra enforcement powers?”
“There have been numerous examples of stolen money, dubious money going into online gambling accounts without any questions asked.”
“These fines are just false economics to me,” he said. “They are coming from profits of companies that are doing wrong.”
This week, the NHS announced it will launch its first gambling clinic for children. The service aimed exclusively at those aged 13 to 25 comes in response to concerns that young people are being increasingly exposed to gambling advertising. It will open alongside the UK’s only dedicated gambling addiction clinic in London.
A further 14 NHS treatment centres are due to open across England this year.