“This was a serious failure affecting thousands of potentially vulnerable customers”.
Sky Bet have become the latest betting operator to be hit with a seven-figure penalty by the Gambling Commission having been found to have failed to protect vulnerable customers.
A number of failures were found in the company’s self-exclusion facilities which meant 736 self-excluded customers were able to open and use duplicate accounts to gamble.
In addition around 50,000 self-excluded customers received marketing material while 36,748 self-excluded customers did not have their account balance funds returned to them on the closure of their accounts.
The firm’s chief executive Richard Flint apologised for the mistakes and accepted they needed to do more.
Sky Bet’s penalty is one of the biggest handed out by the regulator, although last month William Hill were hit with a £6.2m fine for breaching anti-money laundering and social responsibility regulations.
Gambling Commission programme director Richard Watson said of the Sky Bet case: “This was a serious failure affecting thousands of potentially vulnerable customers and the £1m penalty package should serve as a warning to all gambling businesses.
“Protecting consumers from gambling-related harm is a priority for us and where we see operators failing in their responsibility to keep their customers safe we will take tough action.
“Sky Bet reported the issues to us quickly, cooperated with us and has taken this investigation seriously.”
Sky Bet this week revealed their latest set of financial results which said their customer base had increased by 19 per cent to two million.
Flint has been a vocal proponent of the gambling industry doing more to tackle problem gambling and outlined a four-point plan to harness technology and customer data to try to reduce harm at this year’s Ice show in London.
‘We are sorry’
Reacting to the commission’s penalty, Flint said the company had worked to improve their processes to avoid such a thing happening again.
He added: “We could and should have made it harder for self-excluded customers to open duplicate accounts with us and for that we are sorry. We fully agree with the Gambling Commission’s findings and will donate the agreed sum to charities for socially responsible purposes.
“We want to reassure people that we have not made any profit out of this episode. In relation to account balances, wherever possible and practical we have returned the money to the people involved.”
Flint said that since the incident Sky Bet had initiated a major TV and online campaign promoted, among other things, limits that customers could set to control their own gambling and had a team of 60 people monitoring accounts for unusual behaviour.
He went on: “We aim to further improve through collaboration across the industry, with the Gambling Commission, and with relevant experts on responsible gambling.”
An industry-wide online self-exclusion scheme Gamstop is due to be launched this year.
How the Sky Bet compares to previous penalties
888 £7.8 million
William Hill £6.2m
Ladbrokes Coral £2.3m
Sky Bet £1m
GVC Holdings £350,000
Paddy Power £280,000
Stan James Online £80,000