William Hill acquisition

Three gambling businesses owned by William Hill Group will pay a total of £19.2 million (€21.9 million) for social responsibility and anti-money laundering failures, the Great Britain Gambling Commission announced on Tuesday.

WHG (International) Limited, which runs williamhill.com, will pay £12.5 million (€14.2 million), Mr Green Limited, which runs mrgreen.com, will pay £3.7 million (€4.2 million) and William Hill Organization Limited, which operates 1,344 gambling premises across Britain, will pay £3 million (€3.4 million).

Andrew Rhodes, Gambling Commission chief executive, said: “When we launched this investigation the failings we uncovered were so widespread and alarming serious consideration was given to licence suspension.

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

Today’s action comes just a week after the Commission fined two operators owned by Kindred Group plc a combined £7.2 million (€8.9 million) and is the largest enforcement case taken on by the regulator. The previous largest was £17 million (€19.3 million) action taken against Entain in August last year.

Since the start of 2022 the Commission has concluded 26 enforcement cases with operators paying over £76 million (€86.4 million) because of regulatory failures.

Mr Rhodes said: “In the last 15 months we have taken unprecedented action against gambling operators, but we are now starting to see signs of improvement. There are indications that the industry is doing more to make gambling safer and reducing the possibility of criminal funds entering their businesses.

“Operators are using algorithms to spot gambling harms or criminal risk more quickly, interacting with consumers sooner, and generally having more effective policies and procedures in place.”

Social responsibility failures at William Hill businesses include:

  • Having insufficient controls in place to protect new customers, and to effectively consider high velocity spend and duration of play until the customer may have been exposed to the risk of substantial losses in a short period:
    • One customer was allowed to open a new account and spend £23,000 in 20 minutes without any checks.
    • Another customer was allowed to open an account and spend £18,000 in 24 hours without any checks.
    • And a third customer was allowed to open a new account and spend £32,500 over two days without any checks. (Mr Green)
  • Failing to identify certain customers at risk of experiencing gambling related harm and failing to carry out checks at an early stage in the customer’s journey – one customer lost £14,902 in 70 minutes. (Mr Green)
  • Failing to identify risk of harm or intervene with certain customers earlier enough – one customer lost £54,252 in four weeks without the operator seeking income evidence, carrying out adequate checks, or using any other effective method to identify risk of harm. (WHG (International) Limited)
  • Having insufficient controls which exposed new or returning customers to the risk of substantial losses in a short period of time – one customer opened his account and lost £11,400 over the first 30 days without being subject to sufficient checks and another customer did not have a telephone interaction until losses reached £45,800. (WHG (International) Limited)
  • Failing to apply a 24-hour delay between receiving a request for an increase in a credit limit and granting it – one customer was allowed to immediately place a £100,000 bet when his credit limit had been set at £70,000. (WHG (International) Limited)
  • Ineffective controls allowed 331 customers to gamble with WHG (International) Limited despite having self-excluded with Mr Green. (WHG (International) Limited)
  • Failing to identify changes in the customer behaviour which should have provoked consideration of whether the customer was experiencing harm – a safer gambling interaction was conducted only after he had placed and had accepted an £18,000 bet (William Hill Organisation Ltd (WH Retail))
  • Having insufficient controls in place to protect new customers, and to effectively consider high velocity spend and duration of play until the customer may have been exposed to the risk of substantial losses in a short period:
    • After its retail premise re-opened following the Covid pandemic lockdown, the operator allowed one customer to lose £10,600 in two days without a safer gambling interaction.
    • Despite being unknown and staking £42,253 in 130 bets over a three-day period, staff did not identify one customer as being at risk of experiencing harms associated with gambling or undertake any customer interactions. (William Hill Organisation Ltd (WH Retail))

Anti-money laundering (AML) failures include:

  • Allowing customers to deposit large amounts without conducting appropriate checks – one customer was able to spend and lose £70,134 in a month, another to lose £38,000 in five weeks and another to lose £36,000 in four days. (WHG (International) Limited)
  • Allowing customers to deposit large amounts without conducting appropriate checks – one customer deposited £73,535 and lost £14,068 in four months (Mr Green)
  • Customers were able to stake large amounts of money without being monitored or scrutinised to a high enough standard – the operator failed to request Source of Funds (SoF) evidence when one customer staked £19,000 in a single bet, did not obtain documentation from a customer who staked £39,324 and lost £20,360 in 12 days, and did not obtain SoF evidence from a customer who staked £276,942 and lost £24,395 over two months. (William Hill Organisation Ltd (WH Retail))
  • Policies, procedures and controls lacked guidance on appropriate action to take following the results of customer profiling and how its findings should be used to establish the appropriate outcome. (WHG (International) Limited) and (Mr Green)
  • Procedures and controls lacked hard stops to prevent further spend and mitigate against money laundering risks before customer risk profiling is completed. (WHG (International) Limited) and (Mr Green)
  • AML staff training provided insufficient information on risks and how to manage them (WHG (International) Limited) and (Mr Green)

All £19.2 million (€21.9 million) will be directed towards socially responsible purposes as part of a regulatory settlement, the British Gambling Commission said.

Additional licence conditions will also be added to ensure a business board member oversees an improvement plan, and that it undergoes a third-party audit to assess that it is effectively implementing its AML and safer gambling policies, procedures and controls.

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