Entain hit with largest fine in British gambling history

The Gambling Commission has issued the fine for failings in 2020.
The Gambling Commission has issued the fine for failings in 2020.

The Gambling Commission has fined the gaming giant £17m for regulatory failings across its online and retail businesses.

UK.- The FTSE 100 gambling group Entain Plc has been issued with a £17m financial penalty – the largest ever doled out by the British gambling regulator, the Gambling Commission. The operator has also had conditions added to its licence and has been ordered to implement an improvement plan.

The penalty dwarves recent financial settlements reached with 888 (£9.4m), LeoVegas (£1.32m) and Sky Bet (£1.17m). The total penalty comprised £14m for Entain’s LC International online business and a further £3m for Ladbrokes Betting & Gaming. LC International operates 13 websites targeting the British market, while Ladbrokes runs 2,750 land-based venues in the country.

The Gambling Commission said it had issued the penalty for a series of AML, compliance and social responsibility failings identified in an audit of its actions in 2020. The latter included slowness to engage with customers who showed signs of gambling harm.

The regulator found that an Entain online brand had made just one safer gambling interaction with a customer who deposited £230,000 in 18 months and spent long periods gambling overnight.

The group also allowed players who had been banned by one of its brands to then open an account with another. The Gambling Commission noted that an “online customer who was blocked with Coral because they had spent £60,000 in 12 months and failed to provide Source of Funds (SOF) was immediately able to open an account with Ladbrokes and deposit £30,000 in a single day”.

As for Ladbrokes retail betting shops, the regulator found that staff had failed to escalate concerns about problem gambling – in one case, a customer bet £173,285 and lost £27,753 in 12 months.

Regarding AML duties, the regulator noted that Entain brands had allowed online customers to deposit large amounts without sufficient SOF checks being carried out – in one case, a customer was able to deposit £742,000 in 14 months without appropriate checks. Another customer was able to deposit £524,000 in a ten-month period before his account was finally closed for failure to supply SOF evidence.

The regulator also said that Entain’s businesses had shown an “excessive reliance on open-source information”. The group will now undergo a third-party audit of its compliance standards with the Gambling Commission’s Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice. It will also face additional conditions and must implement an improvement plan.

Gambling Commission chief executive Andrew Rhodes said: “Our investigation revealed serious failures that have resulted in the largest enforcement outcome to date. There were completely unacceptable anti-money laundering and safer gambling failures. Operators are reminded they must never place commercial considerations over compliance.

“This is the second time this operator has fallen foul of rules in place to make gambling safer and crime-free. They should be aware that we will be monitoring them very carefully and further serious breaches will make the removal of their licence to operate a very real possibility. We expect better and consumers deserve better.”

Entain defends its record on responsibility 

Entain has responded to the Gambling Commission’s enforcement action announcing that it will appoint a board sponsor to oversee the implementation of any improvements identified by the Gambling Commission’s compliance assessments. It will also order an independent audit of policies and procedures. 

The group emphasised that the failings identified by the Gambling Commission were “historical”, dating back to between December 2019 and October 2020. It said that it accepted that “certain legacy systems and processes” at the time did not meet the regulator’s “evolving regulatory expectations” but that it has since introduced a series of social responsibility improvements since that period.

It stressed that there was no evidence of criminal spending in its business and said that it had accepted a financial settlement to avoid drawn-out legal proceedings.

It said in a statement: “In 2021, Entain launched its Advanced Responsibility and Care (ARC) programme which, using revolutionary AI technology, operates in real-time and is individually tailored for each customer. 

“The initial trials of ARC in the UK have shown a risk assessment accuracy of over 80 per cent, a 120 per cent uplift in the use of safer gambling tools by those most at risk, and a 30% overall reduction in customers increasing their risk levels.

“Furthermore, in May of this year, Entain was awarded the Advanced Safer Gambling Standard by GamCare, having evidenced the highest standards of player protection and social responsibility for its online and land-based gambling businesses in Great Britain.”

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