William Hill’s record £19.2m UKGC fine
William Hill hit with record fine, UK White Paper rumors, one last North Carolina push, Dutch fines, Belgian ad bans +More
Good morning. On today’s agenda:
William Hill guilty of “widespread and alarming” failings.
Is UK White Paper D-Day April 17?
The fate of North Carolina’s OSB efforts could be decided this week.
Dutch gambling authority dishes out more vengeance.
Belgian sport goes into bat over proposed ad ban.
Australians, terrible at gambling, want ad embargo.
William Hill record fine
Gambling Commission chief says William Hill’s failings were so egregious that “serious consideration” was given to license suspension.
Record breaker: The £19.2m fine handed out to William Hill International, Mr Green and William Hill – all now part of 888 – in the UK is a record payment, surpassing the £17m sanction handed out to Entain last year.
The Commission’s Andrew Rhodes said: “When we launched this investigation the failings we uncovered were so widespread and alarming serious consideration was given to license suspension.”
“However, because the operator immediately recognised their failings and worked with us to swiftly implement improvements, we instead opted for the largest enforcement payment in our history,” he added.
The Commission noted it had concluded 26 enforcement cases since the start of last year, with operators having stumped up £76m in fines and levies.
Rain, steam and speed: Among the failures identified, William Hill was found to have “insufficient controls” to protect new customers and “effectively consider high-velocity spend and duration of play”. The litany of failings cited include:
One customer was allowed to open an account and spend £23k in 20 minutes without any checks.
Another was allowed to open an account and spend £18k in 24 hours without any checks.
At Mr Green, one customer was able to spend more than £32k over two days without checks, while another lost £15k in 70 minutes with no intervention.
WHI saw one customer lose £54k in four weeks without the company seeking evidence of income or carrying out any risk checks.
In retail, an unknown customer was able to stake £42k in 130 bets over a three-day period without staff identifying the customer as being at risk or undertaking any customer interactions.
Ineffective controls meant 331 Mr Green customers who had self-excluded were subsequently allowed to play with William Hill.
AML failings included allowing customers to deposit large amounts without conducting appropriate checks, including one who was able to spend and lose £70k in a month.
Allowing customers to deposit large amounts without conducting appropriate checks.
Failing to request Source of Funds (SoF) evidence when one customer staked £19k in a single bet.
Failing to obtain documentation from a customer who staked £39k and lost £20k in 12 days.
Failing to obtain SoF evidence from a customer who staked £277k and lost £24k over two months in the retail business.
All about the timing: 888 has its own difficulties right now as it continues to reel from the admittance at the end of January of AML and KYC procedures related to VIP business emanating from the Middle East. The record fine comes at an awkward time for the industry given the imminent release of the UK gambling White Paper (see below).
Pre-merger, William Hill set aside £15m in its accounts for the upcoming sanction.
Rhodes added: “In the last 15 months we have taken unprecedented action against gambling operators, but we are now starting to see signs of improvement.
“There are indications that the industry is doing more to make gambling safer and reducing the possibility of criminal funds entering their businesses.”
“Operators are using algorithms to spot gambling harms or criminal risk more quickly, interacting with consumers sooner, and generally having more effective policies and procedures in place.”
A record of failures: Recall, the biggest fine levied by the UKGC until now was the record £17m sanction that Entain received in August last year for RG and AML failures at its Ladbrokes and Coral businesses.
Just last week, the Commission announced a £7.1m fine to Kindred for failures at 32Red and Platinum Gaming.
888 has itself previously been in hot water with the Commission. In August 2021 it paid a then record £7.8m for failings in its treatment of vulnerable customers.
It was subsequently fined £9.4m with the now familiar charge sheet of RG and AML failures.
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UK White Paper D-Day?
April 17 is now being mooted as the publication date for the UK government’s beyond-overdue gambling White Paper.
According to an article published in The Sunday Times this past weekend written by long-standing gambling industry critic Dominic Lawson, the date set for the release of the UK government’s gambling White Paper is April 17.
Similarly, Guardian journalist Rob Davies tweeted last week that he had been informed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had now signed off on the release.
Sources suggested new culture minister Lucy Frazer has also signed off on the proposals.
The recent clearing of the decks represented by the announcement of the Kindred and William Hill fines (see above) might also be seen as a signal.
Industry figures were cautious on the specific date, however, noting that the sector has been burned before over expectation of an imminent release.
Stopped clock: The mantra has been to expect the White Paper “within a matter of weeks”, but is this finally the time for that to prove to be correct?
North Carolina’s big OSB push
The Rules Committee and the House Republican Caucus are expected to take action on HB 347 today, setting up a potential floor vote on Wednesday.
It’s all about that base: In a message delivered to North Carolinians, FanDuel asked sports fans to contact their legislators to let their voice be heard.
“Do you wish you could bet on sports with only your computer, tablet or smartphone instead of having to drive across state lines?” it inquired.
The message urged residents to contact their state lawmakers saying it won’t happen on its own, with action likely this week.
Similar grassroots efforts are expected to ramp up from now until the expected vote on Wednesday.
Another positive sign was the inclusion of OSB revenue in Gov. Roy Cooper’s recently released budget.
Nuts and bolts: HB 347 is a boilerplate piece of legislation that would permit up to 12 mobile sports-betting licenses, regulated by the North Carolina State Lottery Commission.
A five-year license costs $1m, with revenue taxed at 14%. Promotional deductions phase out over a three-year period.
In addition to the 12 commercial licenses, North Carolina tribes would also be able to compact with the state to offer mobile betting.
Sports arenas are authorized to operate betting lounges within a half-mile of their facility.
It earmarks $2m for gambling treatment and research programs.
Bills have a soft deadline of May 4 to pass their chamber of origin in North Carolina. If the bill fails this week there could be another push. And as seen in Georgia, there are legislative workarounds that could allow the North Carolina legislature to take up sports betting at a later date.
The Netherlands regulator, Kansspelautoriteit (KSA), is continuing to take no prisoners with yet another fine for unlicensed targeting of Dutch punters.
Red right hand: A €675,000 ($729,000) fine was handed out to Red Ridge Marketing, the operator of affiliate websites providing reviews and links to online casinos operating out of the scope of Dutch regulation.
Albania-headquartered Red Ridge was accused of promoting Malta-licensed websites to players in the Netherlands.
It included pushing offshore sites in favor of Netherlands-licensed websites due to the availability of bonuses, autoplay functionality and as a way to duck the self-exclusion system.
KSA’s analysis found casinojager.com attracted an estimated 296,408 visitors from the Netherlands in the 12 months to May 1, 2022.
Red Ridge copped a €300,000 base fine, plus a further €375,000 for aggravating circumstances such as the targeting of vulnerable groups and making false statements regarding licensing.
Trigger happy: The “scary” KSA issued €26m in fines for illegal gambling behavior last year and has taken multiple operators to court in recent months for a variety of offenses mostly related to operating without license.
Low country blow
The wagons are circling in Belgium ahead of a prospective advertising ban, with angry sports and gambling industry groups eyeing up a date in court.
Lights out: A crackdown on gambling advertising enters force on July 1 and is the first phase of several to be introduced in the coming years that would eventually mean blackouts on everything from billboards to team shirts.
The Belgian professional sports sector wants the ban dropped, however, and is threatening legal action.
In an open letter published last week, advocates of cycling, basketball, football (soccer) and the organizers of major sporting events called for an intervention.
Rather than helping fans, the measures will merely send people towards black market sites, the letter said.
“Our repeated pleas have not been heard in recent months. That is why we are going to court,” it stated.
Yes, there’s evidence: Around 20 files will be handed over to the courts in the coming days, said Wim Van de Keere, general manager of the BNXT basketball league and one of the signatories.
“We want to at least delay the entry into force of the Royal Decree, so that there is room for consultation with the political leaders,” Van de Keere said.
“For many sports, the impact is huge. In basketball, it amounts to 15% of a club’s budget, which you can't ignore.”
Belgian football clubs also get at least 12% of their sponsorship revenues from betting operators, according to industry statistics.
Got your back: The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) also said “outright bans are not the answer”, in lending its support to Van de Keere and associates.
“Without advertising, there is no real way for Belgians to tell the difference between a gambling website which is safe, because it is licensed and applies the consumer protection rules in Belgium, and one that is not,” said EGBA SecGen Maarten Haijer.
Not for turning: With the statute in the books, Vincent Van Quickenborne, Minister of Justice of Belgium, is adamant “the decision is now final”.
“This was necessary because the normalization and trivialization of gambling must finally stop,” he said. “For the sports sector, a transition period is foreseen so that the sector can adapt to the new reality.”
From July 1, all forms of advertising by gambling organizations, both land-based and online, will be prohibited, with the only exception somewhat controversially being the state-run national lottery.
Australians are the world’s worst punters and more than half of the nation would support a curb on ads before 10.30pm, new research has found.
Get out of my sight: The Australian Gambling Research Centre (AGRC) at the Australian Institute of Family Studies surveyed 1,765 residents aged 18 years and over in July 2022, with the findings only now published.
It found 69% of Aussies think that gambling advertising is “too common”.
60% believe it makes “sport less family friendly” and 46% said it “decreases their enjoyment of sport”.
In response, 53% of respondents would support a ban on advertising before 10.30pm on radio, TV, live stream and on-demand, with 19% in opposition.
A ban on sponsorship of sports coverage was supported by 42%.
We’re good: Commercial television is already “the most heavily regulated and safest media platform when it comes to gambling advertising”, said Bridget Fair, CEO of Free TV Australia, to local media.
There are “extensive restrictions in place” including a total ban on gambling advertising in live sports before 8.30pm and strict limits at other times, she said.
A parliamentary inquiry into online gambling is set to be finalized at some point in the coming months.
No comment: Researchers also found Australians are the biggest losers per capita anywhere in the world when it comes to gambling, having ripped up slips topping $25bn last year.
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