William Hill Group (WHG) has been issued a record £19.2m penalty by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) over regulatory failings.
A total of three companies operating under the group’s brand have been sanctioned, with WHG (International) Limited – the online betting business – paying the most at £12.5m. Casino platform Mr Green was also charged a £3.7m fee, followed by retail operator William Hill Organisation Limited’s £3m settlement.
The penalties were handed out based on the UKGC’s ruling that William Hill and its businesses were unable to meet certain social responsibility and anti-money laundering licensing requirements, occurring between 2020 and 2021.
Andrew Rhodes, Gambling Commission CEO, 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.”
Some of the breaches listed in the official UKGC release detail that the company has failed to recognise and prevent harmful gambling behaviour on three separate occasions. Bettors have spent £20,000 in 20 minutes, £18,000 in 24 hours, and £32,500 across two days, all without being subject to any checks.
Self-exclusion is also highlighted as a problematic area which WHG should improve on, with a total of 331 customers who have self-excluded themselves from Mr Green, being able to pour over to William Hill and bet online there.
Mr Green was also accused by the UKGC of insufficient protections in place and allowing an at-risk customer to spend £14,902.
UKGC’s statement goes on to heavily focus on customer protection, with the regulator further accusing WHG of not having a 24-hour delay between receiving a credit limit increase request and its approval, as well as lacking controls for new and returning customers that have led to some losing up to £11,400 in their first 30 days.
The crackdown on WHG is the latest in UKGC’s initiative to tidy up the gambling sector ahead of the Gambling Act review White Paper. Last year, Entain was handed the second largest fine – at the time the record charge until this was broken today by William Hill – paying £17m for similar wrongdoings.
Most recently, Kindred Group’s 32Red and Platinum Gaming were also sanctioned with a combined total of £7.1m.
Rhodes concluded: “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.”