A brain-damaged woman gambled away £88,000 after betting firm William Hill made her a VIP member.
The unnamed woman’s daughter said her mother “lost all her savings” and “racked up thousands of pounds of credit card debt to fund her habit”.
Under Gambling Commission regulations, betting firms must protect “vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling”.
As a VIP member of William Hill, the woman was invited to prestigious events such as Ascot to encourage her to keep betting.
Her daughter said it was “abundantly clear” that her mother was “fragile and in an unfit state to be gambling at these levels” and found records that showed “she had forgotten her account password many, many times, phoning up each time to get a new one”.
A doctor’s note from 2014 said her brain damage was “significant”, compromising her mental capacity and rendering her “extremely vulnerable”.
William Hill eventually refunded the woman her money, but the Daily Telegraph’s Consumer Champion Katie Morley said the firm repeatedly “obstructed and refused to own up to its apparent failings”, adding: “This is far from the behaviour of a responsible company.”
After the newspaper published the story, a William Hill spokesman said they were “extremely sorry” about the situation, claiming they never saw any signs of “health issues or incapacity”.
He added: “We take safer gambling very seriously and are committed to using the newest technology and processes to help us to track potential markers of harm and safeguard our customers.”
Last week, regulations came into force banning the use of credit cards in online and in-store gambling. The ban applies to England, Scotland and Wales and does not cover the National Lottery.
Online gamblers are now only allowed to bet using debit cards or cash deposited into an account. According to the Commission, around one in five of those who use credit cards to bet online are classed as problem gamblers.
Neil McArthur, Chief Executive of the Gambling Commission, said the ban “should minimise the risks of harm to consumers from gambling with money they do not have” but he warned that more needs to be done to stop the gambling industry from letting people do so.
Kellie Armstrong, MLA for Strangford, said Northern Ireland must now introduce a similar law to help vulnerable gamblers.