The Gambling Commission of the United Kingdom announced that it imposed a £9.4 million fine against online operator 888 over money laundering and social responsibility failings.
GC Introduces a Fine, Warning for 888
The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) announced on Tuesday that it introduced a monetary penalty against 888 UK Limited, a company operating 78 websites including 888.com. The £9.4 million ($12.6 million) fine comes after the UKGC conducted an investigation and uncovered that the operator breached money laundering and social responsibility regulations. Besides the fine, the operator will undergo extensive independent auditing. Moreover, 888 also received an official warning from the Gambling Commission.
An Investigation Uncovers Money Laundering Failures
The Commission released details regarding the money laundering failures of the operator. It said that 888 failed money laundering rules by implementing a policy that allowed customers to deposit £40,000 ($53,600) before carrying out the necessary source of funds (SOF) checks. The investigation uncovered that 888 accepted “verbal assurances from customers as to employment income and being reliant on open-source information to validate SOF.”
Moreover, according to the GC, the online operator allowed one customer to spend £65,835 ($88,200) in only 5 months, without conducting the required SOF checks. Other money-laundering failures described by the regulator state that 888 did not implement effectively its policies requiring 10 days for SOF documentation submission before restricting the client’s account. An example which the GC pointed out included one customer that lost £15,000 ($20,100) with SOF requested 3 weeks after the 10-day trigger.
The Commission’s Probe Found Social Responsibility Breaches
UKGC’s investigation pointed out multiple social responsibility failures as well. The Commission said that 888 failed to effectively identify players at risk due to policies that required financial checks only after a customer deposited £40,000 ($53,600). Additionally, the regulator said that the operator did not follow GC’s formal guidance on customer interaction.
Examples of social responsibility failures pointed out by the GC involved a customer that lost £37,000 ($50,000) in six weeks during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the operator did not interact with that customer, despite their losses. Another example included an NHS worker with a monthly salary of £1,400 ($1,870) that was given a deposit cap of £1,300 ($1,740).
The Commission’s probe into 888 found that the operator’s interactions with its clients “predominately consisted of an email just detailing the responsible gambling tools and did not require a customer response.” Among other issues, the Commission found that the operator did not proactively place restrictions on customers’ accounts.
This Is Not 888’s First Fine
This is not the first time 888 has received a penalty. Back in 2017, the GC fined the operator £7.8 million ($10.5 million). That happened after the regulator found that 888 had “serious failings in its handling of vulnerable customers.”
Addressing the most recent fine, GC’s chief executive, Andrew Rhodes, acknowledged that despite the difficult circumstances, the two cases involved failing customers. According to him, such failings are unacceptable. Rhodes stressed that this is the largest fine to date. He explained that if the operator has further failures, the GC may “have to seriously consider the suitability of the operator to uphold the licensing objectives and keep gambling safe and crime-free.”