Online gambling firm Sky Bet has been fined £1m for allowing hundreds of potentially vulnerable people to keep betting after they asked to be barred from doing so, while sending promotional material to 50,000 more.
Industry regulator the Gambling Commission said Sky Bet was guilty of failings in its self-exclusion tools, which are meant to help people who fear they have a gambling problem lock themselves out of online casinos and sports betting.
The fine comes amid delays to the launch of an industry-wide system called GamStop designed to allow addicts to block themselves from multiple companies, following high-profile problems with individual firms’ self-exclusion schemes.
The Gambling Commission said 736 Sky Bet customers who had self-excluded were able to open new accounts, in some cases using the same details previously registered with the company.
About 50,000 self-excluded customers continued to receive marketing material from Sky Bet by email, text or a mobile app notification after self-excluding.
A further 36,748 did not have the balance of their funds with SkyBet returned to them upon closing their accounts.
The fine would have been higher but Sky Bet reported the issue to the Gambling Commission of its own accord.
“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,” said the Gambling Commission programme director, Richard Watson.
“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.”
The vast majority of the £1m fine will be paid to charities for socially responsible purposes, the Gambling Commission said.
Matt Zarb-Cousin, who founded an app called Gamban that allows problem gamblers to block betting sites from their own computer or phone, said the industry had a poor record.
“Sky Bet is only the latest in a long line of failures by operators to uphold self-exclusion, while the multi-operator scheme GamStop has been delayed until later this year,” he said.
“Operators should give customers who self exclude the opportunity to block all gambling sites and apps on their devices by offering software that can’t be user-uninstalled.”
The Sky Betting & Gaming chief executive, Richard Flint, said: “We have always taken responsible gambling and player protection very seriously but this incident showed that we needed to do more.
“When we spotted the issue we pro-actively notified the Gambling Commission and have worked to improve our processes to avoid this happening again.
“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.”
He said the company had not made any profit out of the episode.
Source: The Guardian