An online bookmaker has been hit with a record fine of nearly £8 million after it failed to block users who wanted to stop gambling.
888 UK Limited allowed thousands of customers who had chosen to self-exclude on one platform to continue betting on online bingo.
It also failed to recognise troubling signs as one customer staked over £1m, which included stealing tens of thousands of pounds from their employer.
The Gambling Commission fined the company around £7.8m for the two errors, with millions going back to the customers.
Sarah Harrison, Chief Executive of the Gambling Commission said: “This penalty package of just under £8million reflects the seriousness of 888’s failings to protect vulnerable customers.”
She told the BBC: “There are around two million people now in Britain who either are problem gamblers or are at risk of problem gambling.”
A Commission investigation found that over 7,000 customers who had blocked themselves from casino, poker or sport platforms were still able to bet on bingo.
This penalty package of just under £8million reflects the seriousness of 888’s failings
As the issue “went undetected for a prolonged period of time” customers were able to deposit a total of £3.5million into their online accounts, and then continue to gamble.
In the case of one individual, 888 failed to recognise “signs of problem gambling behaviour” despite them staking a total of £1.3m over a 13 month period and betting an average of three to four hours a day.
The situation “raised serious concerns about 888’s safeguarding of customers at-risk of gambling harm”, the Commission said.
The £7.8million fine will be broken up, with £3.5million being returned to customers and £62,000 of compensation going to the affected employer.
888 said it “accepts the conclusion of the review and is committed to providing players with a responsible as well as enjoyable gaming experience”.
Sky News reported that the company’s shares were “more than 5% higher in afternoon trade – investors expressing relief the punishment was not harsher”.
Addicts speak out
Earlier this month, gambling addicts shared their stories, with one calling for a system “which gets in the way of people’s gambling before they break the bank”.
“My worst day was when I lost £12,000 in one night playing online poker”, one told the Sunday Herald.