Record-Breaking £19 million Fine Issued to Famous Betting Brand

Wiliam Hill fined £19million by UK gambling regulator
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A record-breaking fine for a breach of regulations was handed down to William Hill Group earlier this week by the UK Gambling Commission, as three of its gambling platforms failed to adhere to social responsibility and anti-money laundering objectives.

The fine will be split into three amounts.

William Hill Group (WHG) International Limited will be fined £12.5 million, while Mr Green Limited and William Hill Organisation Limited will be fined £3.7 million and £3 million respectively.

In total, William Hill Group will pay a total of £19.2 million, which breaks the record for a single fine imposed by a UK regulator.

The previous record regulatory settlement was set by Entain when it was forced to cough up £17 million in August last year.

Licence Suspension

The breach of regulations was so severe that Andrew Rhodes, Gambling Commission CEO, stated:

When we launched this investigation the failings we uncovered were so widespread and alarming serious consideration was given to licence suspension.

However, because the gambling regulator body was deemed to be taking action straight away, they were spared their gambling licence being revoked

However, because the operator immediately recognised their failings and world with us to swiftly implement improvements, we instead opted for the largest enforcement payment in our history

Household name

Of course, British people, especially sports enthusiasts, will be very familiar with the William Hill Brand.

The gambling operator is the current sponsor of Sky Sports News. On top of this, the betting operator sponsored the Scottish Cup from 2011 to 2020, along with the PDC World Darts Championship from 2015 to 2022.

The company also sponsors an annual award, dedicated to rewarding excellence in sports writing.

Failures

Social Responsibilty

As mentioned, William Hill was found guilty of failing to adhere to social responsibility objectives.

These included having insufficient controls in place to protect new customers and to effectively consider aggressive gambling in a short period of time.

For instance, one customer was allowed to open a new account and spend £23,000 in a 20 minutes period without any checks or potential flags being raised.

Similarly, a customer of Mr Green was allowed to open a new account and spend £32,500 over the space of 2 days without any checks being warranted.

Other breaches included failing to apply a 24-hour delay between receiving a request for an increase in a credit limit and granting it. This resulted in one particular customer being allowed to place a £100,000 bet when his credit limit was restricted to £70,000.

Furthermore, the lack of controls in place allowed 331 customers to gamble at Wiliam Hill while being self-excluded with Mr Green. With these 2 betting platforms part of the same holding group, this is something which should have been easily checked, flagged and avoided.

Anti-Money Laundering

On top of social responsibility shortcomings, the platforms failed in obeying strict anti-money laundering objectives also.

These included allowing customers to stake large amounts of money without being monitored to a high enough standard, as outlined by the UKGC guidelines.

For instance, William Hill failed to request Source of Funds (SoF) evidence when one customer staked £19,000 in a single bet. Nor did they obtain a similar request when one customer staked £276,942 and lost £24, 395 over a 2-month period.

Perhaps more crucially, it was found that staff training among Mr Green and William Hill employees was inefficient at providing information on risks and how to manage them. Also, procedures and controls lacked guidance on what action to take following the result of customer profiling and how these findings should be used to establish an appropriate outcome.

Stricter Control From the Top

On top of the fines, new licence conditions will also be added to ensure a business board member oversees an improvement plan, and that it undergoes a 3rd party audit that it is effectively implementing its anti-money laundering objectives and safer gambling procedures.

A Bad Start for New Owners

It is worth noting that William Hill was actually bought by the online casino company 888 holdings from Caesers back in 2021. The breaches in question actually related to a period when the operators were under different management. This may have also encouraged the UKGC not to revoke any licences.

An 888 spokesman said,

The settlement relates to the period when William Hill was under the previous ownership and management. After William Hill was acquired, the company quickly addressed the identified issues with the implementation of a rigorous action plan.

A Busy Time for UKGC

The latest fines imposed by the leading UK gambling regulatory body bring the total number of enforcement cases up to 26 since the start of 2022, resulting in gambling platforms paying over £76 million due to regulatory failings.

It also comes only a week after Kindred Group, the holding firm for 32 Red and UNIBET, was fined £7.1milion for similar offences.

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Emily Thompson
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