The owner of Ladbrokes Coral, GVC Holdings, has been fined close to £6 million – one of the biggest ever penalties imposed by a gambling watchdog – for failing to protect vulnerable customers along with not doing enough to prevent money laundering.
The Isle of Man firm received a penalty for £5.9 million from the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) for allowing both Ladbrokes and Coral to neglect effective safeguarding duties that would have otherwise prevented “consumers suffering gambling harm”. This failure took place over a three-year period from November 2014 to October 2017, which actually dates back prior to GVC’s acquisition of Ladbrokes Coral which was certified in March 2018.
A large proportion of the fine is down to one customer who lost £98,000. This customer had apparently requested that the company stop sending him promotions, a request which apparently went ignored by Ladbrokes Coral. The same user had also attempted to make 460 deposits into their account, each of which was declined. This though did not prevent them from losing £98,000 over two and a half years.
In another instance, a Coral customer who spent £1.5 million over nearly three years and who logged into their account on average around 10 times a day over the course of a month, lost £64,000 in that same four week period.
The fine breaks down as follows; GVC Holdings will pay out £4.8 million while denying themselves the £1.1 million that they gained from vulnerable bettors. GVC said it “acknowledges and regrets” that certain legacy systems and processes in place at Ladbrokes and Coral “did not adequately meet the regulatory requirements”.
GVC chief executive Kenneth Alexander admitted,
“These historical failings were unacceptable and since the acquisition, I have overseen a systematic review of the enlarged group’s player protection procedures and the individuals responsible for these problems have exited the business. I am confident that we now have in place a robust and industry-leading approach to player protection.”
Despite only forming in 2004, GVC have evolved into one the biggest operators in gaming and in 2018 was entered into the FTSE 100. As well as Ladbrokes and Coral, GVC also owns gambling outlets bwin, Crystalbet, Eurobet, Neds, CasinoClub, Sportingbet, Gioco Digitale, Foxy Bingo, Gala, partypoker and PartyCasino.
On Friday, GVC announced that the branding rights held by their 42 English and Scottish football sponsorships was going to be donated to GambleAware’s Bet Regret charity. Bet Regret will now occupy the promotional spots that had been previously reserved for GVC brands, while earlier in the year, GVC donated two Betdaq football shirt sponsorships – Charlton Athletic and AFC Sunderland – to the Children with Cancer UK charity.
New Committee Formed
In response to the crackdown on poorly managed gambling protocols, the big five UK betting operators have formed an independent committee with the express aim of deciding how responsible gambling funds will be allocated going forward.
Back in July, GVC Holdings, Bet365, The Stars Group, William Hill and Flutter Entertainment (Paddy Power Betfair) announced plans to raise their responsible gambling funding to £60 million between them, a figure that equates to 1% of their annual revenue.
Interestingly, the committee, which aims to be up and running by September, will be chaired by gambling sceptic and Conservative peer Lord Chadlington, a position that was offered to him by the operators themselves. Chadlington has said that they will consult with various stakeholders to reach their conclusions which will be made public by the end of the year.
GVC CEO Kenny Alexander announced that the holdings firm was “absolutely determined to personally ensure that GVC leads the way in improving our industry’s approach to problem gambling.”
However, old comments made by Alexander have since been published by the Daily Mail in which the CEO appears to vent his frustration at criticism his company has faced on problem gambling related issues, saying, “I think there are far bigger social issues in the UK than problem gambling”, adding that there was little “more than GVC can do”.
In August 2017, gambling operator 888 were forced to pay a record £7.8 million, also for failing to protect vulnerable customers, while Daub Alderney received a £7.1 million bill in November 2018 for the same. In February of the same year, William Hill paid out £6 million in fines.